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Down and dirty in Nairobi

24 March 2010
Published in Blog
by Katy Fentress

As we walked into K1, ampoule one of Nairobi’s more laidback drinking holes, purchase I could sense this was going to be yet another of those male dominated evenings.
The three of us sat down at our table and were introduced to a gang of tipsy businessmen and politicians (if you’re a politician here, cheap chances are you’re a successful business man too), who were all too happy to make room for the youth.
Before long I was being given the third degree.
“Oh so you are a journalist wanting to write about Africa?” said Stigela, who works in the hotel business and is the ex-Minister for defence’s nephew. “Well let me ask you something,” he slurred: “what is Africa?”

“A continent made up of lots of different countries” I answered, unsure where this conversation was leading.
“How do I know you are not just another journalist here to make your career over stories of African corruption?” he continued, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
“You don’t” was my short answer “but you don’t need to worry either. Kenya is not my patch. At least not at the moment, my sights are set on South Sudan”
“Oh,” he said, visibly relaxed “well let’s get another round then”
Conversation stopped and started for another twenty minutes or so, as the loud music that was making communication slightly awkward. Soon my companions started to tire of the senior members of the gang and so it was decided that we should head off to greener pastures.
“Florida” suggested Patrice, who had just got back to Kenya after seven years in Texas and was dying for some action.
“Whoreida?” said Ariot, grinning “sure, it’s not as if Katy’s never been there before”
And so it was that once again my prudish sensibilities were put to the test by club Florida’s floorshow.
What starts as four pretty African girls, dancing around in mock tribal garb – basically a tiny thong with a cloth hung in front and back in order to give the impression of preserving said girls’ modesty – in what would appear to be a traditional “tribal” dance, quickly evolves in to a fairly lewd spectacle. After a few minutes the girls are joined by male partners – dressed in equally skimpy clothes – and they begin to winde and grinde, pressing their intimate parts together in such a explicit way as to make even the most hardened strip club habitué blush.
When the show is over, the dance floor suddenly becomes crowded. If you look carefully, you will notice that at first there are no men in the midst. They are holding back, on the sides, carefully eyeing up the wares as they wriggle their booties to the latest beats, waiting to select which one will be accompanying them to the closest hotel room.
I was not particularly shocked to find that upon leaving, Patrice had decided not to join us because he had “something” that he needed to do.
And so we headed off instead to Topaz, to indulge in that worldwide pastime of drunken food gorging. While in London this would entail consuming an obligatory kebab, in Nairobi deep fried roast chicken is de rigueur.
Unfortunately though, the clouds of smoke that billowed out of the fryer proved far too much for Ariot’s sensitive stomach and we were forced to head home at breath neck speed as he moaned piteously in the back seat.
Kenyan food is not particularly exciting and with the exception of the national dish, Nyama Choma a dry roast meat affair, the staple food is mainly composed of Ugali (a kind of porridge-y pap) and greens. Spicy food is definitely not a big hit in this country.
Nevertheless, much like London, Nairobi makes up for the lack of national food variety with a huge array of different eateries.
Indian food can be consumed at the Diamond Plaza, an Indian food court where, once you get though the throng of waiters insistently pushing their menus in your face, you can get tasty tandoori chicken wings for a decent price.
More upmarket however there is Haandi, currently my favourite Indian restaurant in the world, where for London prices you can eat some very rich and flavoursome traditonal south Indian food.
If Italian food is what you are looking for though, there is no lack of it either. From the wood oven pizza parlour at the Muthaiga minimarket to the Osteria del Chianti, Italians have been leaving their culinary mark here for decades.
Last but not least there are a huge array of Asian restaurants (run mainly by the large Korean community), which focus mainly on Japanese food and sushi. Although Nairobi is situated very far from the coast, this does not to seem to overly-impact on the quality of the fish. There are many daily flights between Nairobi and Mombasa on the coast and as a result the fish seems to be just as fresh as anything you would find in a London establishment (but maybe that’s not saying much).
Generally though, while here, I try to pinch the pennies and eat at home as much as possible. My diet is thus mainly made up of a combination of Ethiopian food and the odd pasta or cotoletta (the years spent in Italy by my hosts, left them with an appetite for Italian food albeit with added spice).
Maybe I’ll wander into the kitchen and see if I can pick up any cooking tips that I could share…

Photo by Eduardo Zarate

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