When we arrived in Nairobi and dropped our bags at the home stay, the first order of business was to get connected. We have all these needy people at home who constantly want to know where we are, what we’re doing, who we’re meeting, you get the gist 😜. Anyhow, long story even longer we take an unsuccessful trip to the local mall, Greenspan, where we are told registration of sims with passports only happen at main branches not agents. But this tale is not about that…
Thus start our first encounter with the mall security. Nothing too out of the ordinary. You get swiped or scanned or whatever and your baggy goes through the metal thingymabob. Off to Nakumatt(supermarket) opposite the house, same process but guys one door, girls another and entrances can’t be used to exit. Weird, but it’s Africa!
But like I said, its a long story that gets weirder the closer you get to town. It’s security guards everywhere on every bank corner, makeshift mall entrance or official shop door. And these guys mean business with their firearms in tow. Not little sidearms, but big anti-riot medium calibre(I know my ammunition), you-will-get-dead-if-I-shoot-you-with-this, assault rifles. The penny finally dropped for me and Fin, in an attempt to find some weekend past time that didn’t include bankrupting ourselves on a safari.
The seige of Westgate Mall, Nairobi on 23 September 2013 and subsequent death of many innocent people have left its mark on this country and city. The paranoia regarding security measures although annoying at times, makes sense. We push the envelope and catch two matatus to get to Westgate mall, where it all went down or up in flames! The area is clearly in the upper income bracket. The once five storey mall now only boasts three. It recently opened and most stores are still setting up, but people seem comfortable strolling around and having a meal at the restaurants. High steel fencing surround the mall itself and at the entrance is two armed guards and the metal thingymabob at the mall doors with two more unarmed security officers. It’s cool inside and feels eerie not like airconditioning, but more like the last breaths of innocents who shed their blood for a cause still mostly unknown to us.
I thank God for traveling mercies thus far and say a silent prayer for the fallen.