If you only prefer shopping at the numerous malls springing up in every major estate in Nairobi, then this post might not interest you.
Garissa Lodge (GL) is not for the faint hearted.
If like me, you are always looking for your penny’s worth and don’t mind getting your feet wet for good quality items that are half or quarter the price in most mall shops, then GL is one of Nairobi’s best kept secrets when its coming to shopping for all household items.
The reason why most shy away from it is mostly due to the chaos that reigns there. Until last year, there were virtually no roads in that section of Eastleigh. One had to go there with gumboots especially in the rainy season as the place can rival a garden.
I was initiated to Garissa Lodge about 4 years ago by my good friend Angie. I had mentioned to her that I wanted to buy new curtains but the cost at Biashara street was prohibitive. She shockingly asked me
Kwani haujui Garissa Lodge?
Blushing a bit for seeming very bourgeoisie, I just told her I’d never ventured that far in my shopping. The following weekend she took me there and we bought beddings, clothes and shoes.
It is during this maiden trip that she let me in on a secret
You see all these items being sold at exhibition stores, kwani where do you think they get them from?
Garissa lodge is the Gikomba of exhibition malls in Kenya
If you are looking to start a home and are buying lots of household items such as curtains, carpets, duvets, bed sheets etc or even doing a wardrobe makeover then instead of spending a small fortune or taking out a loan, why not use this simple guide to navigating one of the toughest shopping streets in Nairobi.
Its always advisable to put together your shopping list before venturing into GL. Its one of those places you go once every 3 months or so because its no walk in the mall (if you catch my drift) If you are venturing there alone for the first time, then it might be good to drag a friend along and do some window shopping first (see list of complexes and what they sell at the bottom of this article)
2.Wear Comfortable shoes
If you own a car, it might not help you much. GL is a street whose parking bays serve as hawker spots. Get some comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk quite a bit. Its always better to have a cab drop you ( or take a bus no.9) and pick you once you are done with your shopping.
GL is not the street hawkers selling you things on the road. Its the huge complexes that occupy that entire street. Don’t fall for the temptation to buy from them unless you are weary and running out of time. They mostly buy the items from inside the complexes, mark up the rate and sell the same items to you just outside the very complexes.
4.Somalis & Language skills
If you love bargaining, GL is not exactly Gikomba. Most Somalis in these malls prefer not talking to you if you start arguing a lot.due to their little knowledge of Kiswahili. Unless you find one who has been in Kenya long, you might get frustrated trying to get them to give you a discount. If you feel the price is high, just move on to the next one shop. They compete on prices so you are bound to get a better rate for the same item.
Most if not all Somalis at GL are Muslim. Come lunchtime and especially on Fridays, they close their shops (they will even chase from the shop) to go for prayers for 2hrs around lunchtime. Its usually better to go early in the morning or after 3pm
6.On ground guide
Generally most people in GL will rarely give you a guide especially when you are looking for particular items. That’s why it helps to go with someone who has been there before or use a guide like this we have done for you. Don’t bother asking the Somalis for where to find certain items, you will just be told;
Hapo mbele (its ahead)
7.Different building complexes for different items
The beauty and complexity of GL is with the tens of malls and building complexes on the same street. A typical mall/complex will have about 5 floors including the basement. The good thing is that, if Mall/complex A is dealing with men’s clothes then you will find similar items on all the other floors on the same building. The same applies to other items in other buildings.
Here are some of the building complexes I would recommend for the respective items indicated.
Hodan complex- curtains, duvets, carpets, bedsheets, pillows
Mandera complex- latest clothes for both men and women
Towhid shopping mall- shoes and bags
If you have been to GL and have additional tips, I’d love to hear from you, drop us a line.