Sunday, August 12, 2012

Masai shopping

Masai markets are quite popular in Nairobi. Basically, the same people rotate locations around the city between an open-air market downtown and parking lot markets in malls. Great place to buy some local souvenirs and presents and hope that they were made somewhere here and not in China. (I’m only saying this because I recently learnt that the beads the Masai people use to make jewellery are made in China and imported in Kenya. Then, the Masai just bead their necklaces, bracelets, bowls, belts and pretty much anything else you can think of. But making the beads here is now to expensive. Which is sad because Kenya also happens to be famous for its glass works.) 

Anyhow, the shopping started at Hilton’s Arcade. Why? To build le strategie, which was – go to an Indian, non-bargain place to check out how cheap things can get; write it down (thanks J for the idea and the little notebook); use as reference and bargain at the Masai market.

Successful, hellz yeah. I only got 1/4 of my things back at the Hilton Arcade.

While I’ve explored Masai markets before, I never indulged in any shopping. Now that I am down to my last weekend in Nairobi, it’s about time I bought myself some African stuff before I leave the continent. So, here are some observations on the Masai market.

1. Everyone is a craftsman, they make it, they give you the best price. They are not like the brokers. Oh, no, it’s fair here.

2. It would seem that I no longer look like a complete mzungu (Side note: apparently, mzungu means English, so I was never actually a mzungu, but that’s a completely separate story), because no one really offered me completely exorbitant prices. Only the three times higher than you should pay.

3. Some people refused to bargain. What up with that?

4. It’s hard to tell how much things are really worth. More importantly though, how much are they worth to you. Cost and benefit analysis: would I really pay that much and do I really want it that badly. In the end, you can buy none of these things, or similar ones, at these prices back home. So why not splurge and spend $10 for a Masai painting? (Yes, I did bring the price down, but only halfway of what the guy originally wanted. And no, I don’t wanna know if I paid too much.)

5. The more you buy, the better price you get. Great, but I’m not exactly sure what to do with 7 paintings now.

6. Easier to bargain with women… They seem to understand better my “take it or leave it” approach. Don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m hurting men’s feelings by outsmarting them? Maybe they think because I’m a woman I’ll bend? Someone elaborate, ‘coz I ain’t getting it. Women are so much more straightforward: this is how much I want, this is how much I’ll give you. Deal. No bickering over 50 Kshs as if that makes a difference. (For those guys it probably does….)

7. You could get better deals that from the Masai people in Masai Mara. Significantly better.

In the end, I walked out with yeah, those 7 paintings, 2 candlesticks, 4 bowls, a set of coasters and 10 pairs of earrings all for less than $40 (and if you trace back you’ll notice that just one of the paintings was $10). This is also how much my dinner at Carnivore cost a month earlier. What I’ll do with all this stuff? No clue.

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