Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Making the Most of the Maasai Market

We finally visited the famous Maasai Market! There was a huge range of handmade crafts, artwork, traditional clothes, and tourist knick-knacks. It was crowded and chaotic, but fun. Well, I had fun. It wasn't really M's scene, but he survived.

We bought just a few things. I snagged the stunning work of art below, done by a man who calls himself the local Picasso. It depicts a farming village community and the classic African sunset. I can't wait to get a frame for it!

I also found this sweet, handmade nativity scene. The sides fold together over the baby Jesus to make a pencil-like shape when closed. I found the simplicity of the materials (wood and twine) to be a perfect example of the humility that rightfully fits the true spirit of Christmas.

Lastly, I picked up a cool "African" wax print dress. (I say "African" because it was probably made in China and is only debatably African either way). It's an interesting design because it ties around the waist on the inside of the dress to make the unique shape.

I have a few tips for any future travelers looking to make the most of the Maasai Market:

  • Go in with a plan. Decide what you want to buy before you get there, or you'll quickly be overwhelmed by the number of stalls and types of wares. Do you want clothes, shoes, or jewelry? A gift for someone's house? You can still deviate from the plan if you find something you like, but having some idea of what you need as a guide helps a lot.
  • Say no. People may offer to help you shop, try to draw you to their side of the market, or even just start putting jewelry on you. It's okay to say no.
  • Haggle. You're expected to bargain down from the offered price. I've heard a good rule of thumb is to halve the initial suggested price, but I was able to go even lower (about 30-40% of the offered price) on my purchases. Know that you'll probably pay premium anyway just by virtue of being a tourist.
  • As always in Kenya, Kiswahili helps.
  • Watch your wallet. Children pressed boxes of gum they were trying to sell against our car as we tried to drive away. Vendors gave us extra attention (and were extra pushy) because we looked foreign. People did us "favors" we didn't ask for and then demanded payment. We were completely fine, but largely because we were careful.
  • Double-check logistics. The location of the Maasai Market changes daily, so make sure you know where you're going, how you're getting there, and (if relevant) where you'll park.

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