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Kenya’s “small Mogadishu” lures Christmas bargain hunters

As Kenyans in search of second-hand holiday items flock Gikomba, the biggest flea market in the east African nation, those seeking imported new wares are visiting Eastleigh in droves.

Both are located a few kilometers from the central business district of Nairobi, the capital.

At Gikomba, one can get second-hand items such as shoes and clothing imported from Europe and the United States.

Eastleigh, on the other hand, is a hub for new clothes, shoes and fabrics imported from countries like China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The presence of many Somalis in Eastleigh has made the business and residential hub a “small Mogadishu” and good prices there have been pulling Kenyans to the district over the years.
On Monday, the district was teemed with shoppers hunting for bargains.

Lining the streets and the alleyways are small traders selling a multitude of items, from children’s shoes and clothes to men’s shirts and women’s dresses.

Business is also brisk at the dozens of malls in the district where Somali traders operate stalls.

At one such mall named Amal, Mohamed Hussein, a trader selling men’s trousers and shirts, attended to several people.

“Which size do you wear?” he asked a middle-aged man before sifting through tens of trousers hanged on the wall, extracting two and giving them to him to try on.

The man disappeared behind a makeshift fitting room, emerged soon after and paid 3,000 shillings (about 29.4 U.S. dollars) for the two trousers made in Turkey, at 14.7 dollars each. He also bought two shirts at 7.8 dollars each.

Many who flocked to Eastleigh for the better part of the month were traders buying goods to sell during Christmas, but many of shoppers visiting Eastleigh now are consumers making purchases for themselves.

“I go to Eastleigh because of the best prices that the Somalis offer,” said Samson Musili, who lives in Kitengela, on the outskirts of Nairobi. “The good thing is that you can bargain with them, unlike if you go to a supermarket.”

In addition to Somalis, who are the biggest community in Eastleigh, people can also spot Ethiopians, Eritreans, South Sudanese, Tanzanians and Congolese there.

Besides clothes and shoes, the traders also sell electronics and mobile phones.

Eastleigh hosts more than 600,000 people and moves over 100 million dollars a month, according to government estimates.

The huge number of people visiting Eastleigh from Nairobi city center in the last few days has seen public bus operators raising fare along the route, from an equivalent of 0.49 dollars to between 0.78 dollars and 0.98 dollars. Enditem

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