The Dirty 30s.

There is something inspired about turning thirty.

Out of the very blue, it hits you. One day you simply stop giving a shit and you start to really care for yourself. This is also the time, we regret the many mistakes we made in our twenties and we start to implement the lessons we learnt, realizing somewhat slowly that these lessons are in fact wisdom in the gaining and that it was inevitable that our paths unfolded as thus. I like to describe this period as the time when one faces oneself in the mirror, the time when demons and monsters from within are confronted, the time to vanquish the skeleton in the closet and rise into the casing of your adulthood.

When I turned thirty, one of my personal goals became finding satisfaction for every decision I make. I have become very present, self-aware and wary of my surrounding. I am more selfish with my time, I focus more attention inwards, paying closer attention to healing my inner child, seeking to do this on my terms.

The thirties you see, bring with them a sense of independence and self-ownership. Nobody can tell you what to do anymore, only your mother can dare and even she would not be beyond criticism.

It is also a time that we grow very intolerant of all sorts of nonsense, even self-inflicted. Past experience and interactions, lessons learnt from the mistakes of our twenties, become almost like an armor, protecting us from most bullshit. I tended to question anything that I was needed to give my time to.

It is also a time of great self-realization. I have become very protective of my space, my energy, I am fiercely cautious with the energy I allow back into my personal space. I started to value myself more, my health and wellbeing have become a thing of priority.

In my early twenties, I could outdrink even the fattest sailor in the bar, and now in my early thirties, two glasses of wine and I’m ready to go home. A whole night of partying and I need two whole days and nights to recover. In my early twenties I could party till three and report to work at 8am. Everybody’s story is unique but mine involved a lot parties.

Simply put, the thirties becomes a time when everybody’s individuality takes center stage. A time for freeing oneself from the way others define us and playing the most important role in writing our own destiny. I like to call this time, my metamorphosis, and the time of my transformation.

I realize that for many people it is a time when they feel the pressures to get married if they weren’t already. Raising young families in an economy as tough as ours cannot be an easy thing to do. Every day I applaud my peers as I celebrate with them for making the brave decision to partner up with someone and bring a baby or two (or three) into this world.

In so many more ways, the thirties is indeed a time to have immense fun. It is a time of guilt free indulgence. After all, you can do what you want, you’re not a child, nobody’s watching you, haters can hate, and we just don’t have time to care. We’re wiser now, stepping into our roles more confidently. Making big decisions. Adulting and finding innovative ways to enjoy it.

I want for you, in as much as I want for me, even more prosperity and bliss. These are indeed very interesting times we live in.

‘Have you eaten? Umekula? Tu as mangè?’

This question, in any language, forms the single, most powerful declaration of love. Someone who asks you whether you have eaten cares that you have been nourished. For most of us this person is usually our mother. Most of the time people ask about your work, your children, your school work, your travel or business. Of course people who ask about these aspects of your life do care. But there is a depth of caring, a depth of love that is revealed by the question ‘have you eaten?’ It’s a simple question, even basic, but think about this: food is a basic human need in the Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. So this single question goes to the essence of our being, it cuts through the layers to who we really are; beings that need care, nourishments…love.

A friend mine, after 35 years on this earth, told me he realizes he is loved whenever his housekeeper calls him from her home to ask whether he has eaten. At that moment, he is occupying his place in time knowing that he is loved. Food forms part of culture, heritage – it is part of who we are. Have you eaten declares; I love you so much to care about your most basic needs. If you want to put this to test, just be conscious of who asks you whether you

THE LION KING: WATCH OR MISS?

The Lion King is the latest entry into Disney’s list of live-action remakes of their classic animations. Released 25 years after the original film, the Lion King capitalizes on the nostalgia effect of the audience that first watched it as children.
With this remake, it seems Disney decided to spare no expense with a $ 260 million budget. The film features an A list cast that includes Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, John Oliver as Zazu and more high profile names. It was directed by the legendary Jon Favreau right off his work on Disney’s live-action remake of their other classic animation, The Jungle Book. The film also boasts of amazing photo-realistic graphics that could almost get confused for nature shots.
The cast does a wonderful job voicing the characters; the humor is there and the musical numbers are especially outstanding. The animation is also on point with the animals being depicted anatomically correctly down to the smallest details. This realism also makes the film perhaps a little darker. Scenes like the ones with the ever-hungry hyenas, the wildebeest stampede and the animal fight scenes are all scarier in this realistic version than they were in the more cartoonish original film.
In striving to make the film as realistic as possible, it, unfortunately, lost some of its magical touch. Scenes like when the animals form a pyramid during a musical number or the touching scene where Mufasa appears in the clouds to his son Simba in his low moment have either been removed or changed for more realistic ones, losing their charm in the process. There is something beautiful about animals swinging on tree branches or having very expressive faces that is unfortunately lost when they are made to look and behave like animals.
On its own, this is a great family movie enough to leave you impressed, happy and satisfied. However, it is not a movie that can just be judged on its own merits alone. Being a remake of such a beloved classic, this remake had a lot to live up to and unfortunately, it fails to achieve those expectations. By comparison, what this movie gains in having stunning visuals, a star cast, and the element of nostalgia, it loses in having no magic, no heart, and no element of surprise that made the first one a classic. This film will no doubt be a huge box office success, but it will definitely not be as culturally significant as the original was.
So, to watch it or not to? Well, I say watch; there is a lot to be enjoyed in this movie. But, do not go into it expecting the same spirit and magic of the first one, there is little of that here.

SGR – A bucket-list ride

The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is perhaps Kenya’s most prized accomplishment in the recent while. It is after all, the country’s most ambitious project since its independence. As such, there has been a buzz about it ever since it was launched some two years ago. The speed, plus the comfort were supposed to revolutionize the experience of travelling between Nairobi and Mombasa. A journey that otherwise goes on overnight on a bus, would now be completed in a mere 4 hours. The comfort was also improved, the price was competitive and the scenery could not be matched by the views from a bus ride. It is for these reasons that I was quite excited to get the experience myself.

The experience of taking the SGR, for the most part, lived up to the hype it had received. The train left exactly on time without a minute of delay. The train was full to capacity, a good indicator that travelers had taken well to the service. The ride was as smooth as advertised, in fact, it was so smooth that it felt like the train was moving considerably slower than it should have been. The train was clean, well-organized and well maintained, including the toilets, something I appreciated and hope continues to be so. The views were spectacular, especially when crossing through the vast savannahs, or Tsavo National park. There weren’t many animals to be spotted, but there were a few elephants at least. The food served on board was also quite good; there was a wide variety of items on the menu and there was something for everyone.

I had ridden the train from Nairobi but, unlike most people on the train, I was not headed to Mombasa. Instead, my journey took me to Voi. As it turns out, Voi is actually a rather popular stop, especially with tourists going to the Tsavo National park. The service in these smaller stations is just as efficient as in bigger stations, if not even better. The train had arrived exactly on time and I had arrived a satisfied customer with a lot of good things to say as is evident here.

There is one thing I liked less about this experience though. The locations of the stations: they are far from city centers. Even for a smaller station like Voi, one still has to take a vehicle to get to the town center.

All in all, the SGR experience was a good one. It was not merely about getting from point A to point B, or the comfort, or the speed, or any other one thing that’s good about it. What made it wholesomely good was all of these put together. I hope you had the same experience I did, I hope you get this experience if you haven’t tried it yet and I am looking forward to experiencing it on my next trip.

If you would like to share this experience, ticket pricing and all other relevant information can be found here.

AirBnb Nairobi – a traveler’s experience.

When I am back home in Nairobi, Airbnb provides a convenient base for me to catch up with family and friends whilst having some me-time too. I tend to stay in the Kilimani area; I find it reasonably safe to walk around any time of the day and the area is well connected with transport links.

A couple of years ago I found a good Airbnb place on Riara Road (behind Junction Mall), which became a regular for my annual trips. The young couple who hosted it provided a good balance between privacy and company. I rented one of their en-suite rooms and stayed there on 3 occasions. One of my favourite things when I am in Nairobi is having my shoes polished, I especially enjoy the banter that comes with the experience. I have had some of the most interesting conversations, sat up on that bench, having my shoes made over. I found a good shoe-shine stall at Junction Mall opposite the main entrance on Ngong Road. He (let’s call him Karanja) spruced up my 10-year-old, tired-looking pair of boots to have them looking so brand new that I got compliments about them. Karanja and I had a jolly good banter and the interactive experience was worth way more than I paid for.

During a recent visit to Nairobi, I was told that he had moved back to the countryside for personal reasons and would try to run a business there. I was devastated. The shoe-shine stall remained and I continued using their services but the experience was not the same. I lost the spring in my step.

Having a pamperous time is one of my other pastimes in Nairobi. I found a good spa, off Mfangano Street in town. It was a basic set up with excellent service. Imagine, a manicure, pedicure, hand & foot massage all for 300 bob. The technician (let’s call him Onyango) did a great job paying attention, he made certain that my cuticles were impeccable, I had to have him at my fingertips, pun intended.

My last Airbnb place was a studio apartment, on Kirinyaga Road, a 7-minute walk to Onyango’s spa. As we got used to seeing each other every other day, the conversation starter often was ‘leo ni massage tu’ (massage only today). My toes and fingers were pristine and I flaunted them wearing sandals literally come rain or sunshine, and holding that glass of wine for that few more seconds longer. I took care to tip Onyango well at each visit.

The Airbnb location on Kirinyaga Road was edgy at night but the flat felt safe once I got into the complex. Apart from proximity to the spa, the host happened to be a same gender loving woman and it is likely that there was a visceral affinity to the transaction. The flat complex itself was a peaceful atmosphere with professional security guards. I got friendly with a couple of neighbours who also run an Airbnb place at the complex, and we had some drinks and a takeaway at the flat on a couple of occasions. Daytimes on Kiringaga Road were busy with lorries, matatus and motorbikes hooting and dodging each other and potholes, bearing in mind that it was right in the middle of hardware stores and car mechanics. I would walk into various parts of town in the day to meet family or friends and navigating my way there and back without getting run over was a lovely challenge. The location of the flat was convenient for meeting friends and family who did business in town. Evenings out were always by Uber or a ride with friends. Two hundred bob got me to most bars in town and Westlands cost 350-400 bob on Uber. I will probably explore a different part of the neck of the woods at my next visit, for a fresh experience.

Koroga festival – Nairobi never got any funkier

The Koroga Festival, a rare and loved occasion for culture and entertainment.

The Koroga Festival, which recently held its 26th event in July 2019, is a bi-monthly music extravaganza organized by Capital FM. The festival celebrates African music and features local artists as well as celebrated international acts. Food, art, and fashion also feature prominently and all these make it a must-attend.

In its early days, the festival was normally held at the Green Arboretum grounds. However, as it has continued to grow, the event has been held in different locations, the last two of which were the Nairobi Mamba Village grounds and Tatu City respectively. Holding it in different places has proven to be a good idea because it gives it a fresh feel every time, especially for regular attendees.

There are many great reasons to attend the festival whenever you can. The first of which is, of course, the music. The festival hosts a wide variety of Kenyan acts as well as international ones and boasts of having hosted the likes of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Papa Wemba, Ali Kiba, and Koffi Olomide among others. If you love music, you are sure to have a wonderful time here.

The next great reason is food. The food and drinks here are great and in plenty. Pitched tents offer your favorite meals from fries to grilled goat meat. There is also an abundance of drinks from soft drinks to alcoholic beverages. Needless to say, food and music go along great.

Another reason to attend is fashion. If you like to make a fashion statement, or maybe just appreciate it, then this is the place to be. The festival occasionally features themed dressing, such as African prints or others. Either way, it is a place where fashion flourishes.

Additionally, pricing is very fair. The tickets cost about KES2000 but can be cheaper if bought earlier in advance. Transport to and from the event is also usually planned for, especially when accessibility may be an issue. Security is seriously considered so you can have fun at peace and, the event also offers kids entertainment to allow for a wholesome family fun day.

The Koroga Festival is a great event to go out with friends and family and have a great time. To find out more about the next event or to buy tickets, check out their site.

The Collective Restaurant

A haven for happy hour cocktails, beautiful art, and intimate conversation.

The collective restaurant in Nairobi, unbeknownst to many, is a well-kept secret. Situated along the dark Utalii Street, this gem in the city sparkles quietly on a lonely street.

The well-lit entrance immediately caught my eye. The welcoming security and hostess reassured me that I was at a place that was safe and well-run. The intimate setting upstairs soon reassured me of the kind of crowd this place attracts. Young, hip, artsy and multinational. The music from the Dj booth filled the air with just the music to get these classy people ordering more happy hour cocktails. I busied myself with a glass of wine, they did not have the cabernet sauvignon I so love by the glass, so the waitron conducted a short little tasting of their finest Bordeaux and a Malbec. I noticed a band setting up for a live show. I even got to feast my eyes on a few minutes of the Wimbledon men’s set.

The collective restaurant prides itself for being an exhibitor of fine art, gourmet food, and great entertainment, not to mention the delicious cocktails and the impressive wine list. The beautiful art pieces that adorn the walls on both floors at the collective compliment the warm, inviting and artsy ambiance of the whole establishment.

The happy hour that starts from 4 pm till 7 pm offers a variety of delectable cocktails at half the usual price. The wine was excellent but the service staff could do with a little bit more training in customer service. The establishment is spacious and beautifully decked out, with a restaurant-style setting on the ground floor and a lounge on the upper floor. Being relatively new, the Collective restaurant seeks to establish longevity and a faithful following in a city filled with so many great options. I am happy to predict that this place will be here for a while.

Artcaffe -Have you tried the happy hour?

The Artcaffe chain of restaurants continue to stand out in the city of Nairobi as an excellent service provider. Situated in all major malls in Nairobi, Artcaffe is a blend of restaurant and café where upon entering, guests are received with a warm and welcoming ambiance that encourages hours of indulgence and lounging. First-time customers soon become returnees, encouraged by the consistency in good service, offered by the ever so friendly and welcoming staff.

Affordable and competitive prices are a plus for those not willing to spend a fortune on an eating out experience.

We cannot afford not to mention the great daily offers found at Artcaffe. They have a daily happy hour that starts from 4.00pm till 7.00pm. The ‘buy one get one free’ offer on their signature cocktails is an attraction that pulls revelers in their hundreds. The mojito, the whiskey sour and the classic margaritas are a delight and a must-try for tipplers looking to maximize their enjoyment and save a coin.

The food at Artcaffe is some of the best prepared and delicious in the city. The pizzas are as good and original as they would be in Roma. Their pasta selection is mouthwatering and tastes just as great. The chefs do not disappoint with their variety of unique daily specials, delectable soups and a scrumptious selection of meat and chicken dishes for the self-proclaimed carnivores.

Why choose Artcaffe? My own personal favorites would inspire anyone seeking to have a great time, alone or with the company. I am particularly fond of the many options from their intercontinental wine list. Being an avid lover of cabernet sauvignon, I am always pleased with the options on the menu. On my last visit, I drowned my sorrows on several glasses of their delicious Anakena ‘Birdman’ Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chilean wine import. We ordered two of their signature pizzas that came in record time, the Bianca and Pollo were a delightful treat that I must recommend for all pizza lovers.

The great ambiance and indulgent music is another reason to visit the Artcaffe but another of my own personal favorites has got to be the Sunday Mimosa specials. Overall I love that this establishment offers champagne by the glass at an affordable price.

Anyone looking to experience a refined taste of what restaurant and bars have to offer in Nairobi must try the Artcaffe.

The Eye of Kenya – How daring are you?

The Eye of Kenya, rising to Nairobi’s grandeur in the most beautiful way.

In March of 2019, the Two Rivers Mall opened Africa’s largest and Kenya’s first Ferris wheel, dubbed the ‘Eye of Kenya’. The wheel is at least 55 meters in diameter and features 40 carriages each with a capacity of six passengers. A ride on the eye of Kenya will cost you Ksh 500 per head and lasts 17 minutes.

The views from the top of the eye of Kenya are spectacular. One has a bird’s eye view of the mall itself as well as the nearby town of Ruaka. Additionally, under the right conditions, you can also make out the skyline of Nairobi city in the distance.

The eye of Kenya operates daily from 9 am to 7:30 pm. It is located on the amusement section of the mall where, aside from riding the wheel, there are numerous other fun things to try out. Other than there Eye of Kenya, this area of the mall offers different kinds of rides and games that you can enjoy. This makes it ideal for a date or even a family fun day out.

Payment for admission can either be by cash or by Mpesa.

SWVL – A cool new way to ride

SWVL, comfort and convenience transforming public transport in Nairobi

SWVL is a recent entrant into the rapidly growing ridesharing and cab-hailing market. It is unique though, unlike most ride-sharing apps that offer cab services, SWVL offers bus rides instead.

SWVL buses have a fixed route with fixed bus stops and charge a fixed fare. They also work on a timed schedule, meaning you don’t have to wait until a bus fills up. The buses arrive mostly on time as advertised, which is impressive for the Nairobi traffic and which means you don’t have to worry about running late.

To use the service, one only has to download the app from the Appstore or the play store and register like you would any other ridesharing app. In the app, you then choose your preferred pickup bus stop and destination and your preferred time. The app shows you the details of your ride, including the driver’s name and phone number as well as the bus registration number.

The buses themselves are spacious, clean and well maintained. Additionally, because it is still a fairly new service, it occasionally offers promotional codes that you can take advantage of and ride at a subsidized fare, or even for free. Even then, the fixed fare charged is only Ksh 200 per person, which is fair considering the convenience offered by the service.

SWVL does still have some way to go. The routes offered are still rather few and mostly restricted to major routes. During off-peak hours, there are also fewer buses and, while this is understandable, it does mean you may have to wait longer for the next bus. The uptake on the service also seems to be slow and you may find yourself in a largely empty bus.

That said, SWVL is still a service you should consider for the convenience it offers.