Mitumba traders in Nairobi, and in other towns, get supplies from Gikomba Market, Toi Market, Korogocho or Kawangware. Of these flea markets, Gikomba is the most popular. Gikomba is a landmark. Your first time there might be a nightmare, if you get lost in the maze of vibanda, but you will go home happy with the bargains.
Places you ought to know in Gikomba Market
There are two ways to shop in this market: either buy Gikomba bales to take to your shop or select pieces from the multitude of traders in this market. Gikomba deals in all types of mitumba items from household utensils to clothes, shoes, books and bedding.
You can easily tell which side you are on by the type of items on display. For example, if there are clusters of vibanda selling shoes, you are close to the bridge and Kamukunji grounds.
Here’s an overview of sections of Gikomba Market based on type of items on sale.
Gikomba shoe traders line the road opposite the Mosque and the D.O’s Office all the way behind the mosque towards the river. On the perimeter of the D.O’s Office, shoes on sale are mainly rubber shoes and bathroom slippers. Another section to explore is in Majengo area.
Unlike other parts of the market where traders ‘sing’ the prices, for shoes, there’s a whole new language. Watch out for a strange language where a trader gives you the price as a single digit. For example, nane, tatu, mbili.
You could also look for boots, high heels and sport shoes on the second row of vibanda opposite the COTU Headquarters along Digo Road. The first row has hats, socks, bedding, etc. The prices are mainly for retail, going as low as Ksh100 and as high as KSh600, but you can always bargain when buying in wholesale.
You could also try your luck along the main entrance to Gikomba from Ladhies Road. Just after Equity Bank, mainly on Sundays, you may spot a handful of traders along the road selling shoes at a price as low as KSh50.
The main section dealing in handbags is accessible from the Nairobi stage just before you turn towards COTU Headquarters. Follow the road lined with traders dealing in kitenge and other fabrics, through a stuffy, narrow path of chicken coops and into a shaded pathway with new clothes. You will spot handbags along the pathway, and on either side you can explore the rows of vibanda.
On the right, the vibanda end at the riverbank. The handbags vary with design and size. In most cases, a clutch bag goes for KSh200 while a large leather handbag may cost about KSh500. Purses and makeup bags cost about KSh100. Nevertheless, Gikomba Market is about bargains, so haggle until the price is right.
- Weaves and cosmetics
As you walk towards the handbags section, just after the chicken cages, you will see various traders dealing in cosmetics, braids, weaves and wigs.
- Infant’s clothes
You can reach the open-air market dealing in baby clothes either from the Mosque or from the Nairobi stage just next to the COTU Headquarters. If you board a matatu from the city centre to Gikomba, you will alight here.
From this stage, branch off the main street to the right, to walk along a path lined with vibanda selling curtains and bedding. After a short distance, there’s a road to the right, with traders selling curtains and bedding. This road proceeds to the fish market. Stay on the main street, and just opposite the stands with heaps of handkerchiefs and undergarments, you will spot a passageway to the open-air market.
Alternatively, walk from the Nairobi stage to the Pumwani Mosque opposite the Kariobangi and Dandora Stage. Just after the perimeter of the D.O’s Office, turn right and walk along the shoes market. A short distance into the market, make another right turn where there are heaps of towels. Walk along the towels and bedding into the open-air market. Baby clothes sell for as low as KSh30.
- Ladies trousers
You can find these in the open-air market I have explained above (where you will find baby clothes), or just next to the handbags area also explained above). In the open-air area, ladies trousers, official pants or jeans, cost between KSh30 and Ksh200. If you need to make alterations to the items you buy, tailors dot the perimeter of the open-air section. Alterations cost about KSh20 depending with the adjustments you need.
- Stockings, socks and hats
A handful of vibanda, along Digo Road, opposite COTU Headquarters, sell stockings, socks and hats. Socks cost about KSh20 a pair while hats go for about KSh50.
- Coats, jumpers and trench coats
When you proceed along the road that takes you to the handbags section, there are dozens of vibanda with light jumpers, coats and trench coats.
- Official skirts and blouses
Between the vibanda with coats, jumpers and handbags, you will find heaps of skirts and blouses. You could also try the open air market that has ladies trousers and baby clothes to get chiffon tops, skirts and blazers. Skirts in the open-air section cost as low as KSh40. On Sundays, you can get chiffon tops for KSh10 and blazers at KSh50.
Gikomba Market Days: When to go to Gikomba
Gikomba Market opens all days of the week. Nevertheless, on some days, most traders sell old stock from other busy days. On average, Tuesday and Friday are great days to visit Gikomba. Saturdays are a buzz too, especially in the open-air areas. When you become a regular buyer, ask your supplier when he/she opens new bales, and at what time, so you can get the best pieces often called camera. On Saturdays, buyers flock the market in thousands, so most traders open new bales. On Sunday, some sections are almost deserted, and the ones open mainly sell what’s left from Saturday’s bales. Sunday is the best day to visit Gikomba to buy items on sale for as low as KSh 10.
During the week, the market is open as early as 5 a.m. It gives a new meaning to the cliché the early bird. Scores of buyers jostle for camera pieces before dawn, using all manner of illumination from torches to camera flashlights to inspect the items they grab as each bale is opened. The vast section that deals in handbags often opens later, around 7 a.m.
In Conclusion: How to get to Gikomba Market from Nairobi Town
From Nairobi, pick a matatu to Gikomba at the Majengo Stage along Luthuli Avenue. The fare ranges between KSh40 and KSh50.