the lights

So I was stuck in the usual traffic jam somewhere downtown and some hawkers approached me in my (borrowed) KXM Suzuki. The KXM registration (~ = 1986/87) should be reason enough to skip the annoying “mzungu = pesa” equation for a picture of someone who just happens to be in Kenya long enough not to buy anything from off the streets (although those things aren’t bad – only: who needs a goldfish bowl INCLUDING food as offered the other day for “just” 2.000 Kshs?). In other words: I am just as broke as Whispers used to be back in those days. Nairobi life is expensive.

Hawker #1: “Yesss…my friend…you want to buy this magazine?…or this one?….i give you good price”
me: “Aca.”
Hawker #1: “Oh…ok….so you are rrristening to Kameme FM?”
me: “Eh. I like it.”
Hawker #1: “Oh…so….your rrrrlights are on.”
me: “..alafu?”
Hawker #1: “No, I was just wondering”
me: “Yes, it is already 6.20 pm….I put them on…”

20m further down the road…

Hawker #2: “Yess…my friend…so how is you today? You want to buy this nice steering wheel cover?”
me: “Look, I have one right here, I don’t need a second”
Hawker #2: “But yours is broken”
me: “yeah….so what…”
Hawker #2: “And these cabooools (jump leads, booster cables)?”
me: “No, i already have so many tools in my car here and hardly ever need them”
Hawker #2: “And what about this hedge trimmer?”
me: “ati ??!! Me I don’t even have a garden….”
Hawker #2: “Oh…ok….so you are listening to Kameme FM? Do you understand what they are saying?”
me: “Yeah…well, no, I just like the sound of the words.”
Hawker #2: “Oh..hehe….sawa….oh, your lights are on…”
me (thinking): wtf?

15m further down the road…

Hawker #3: “Eh my friend…your lights are on”

(According to what is taught at local driving schools, lights should be on from 6.30 pm until 6.30 am).

The Nairobi traffic jams: makes me think what Half ‘n’ Half commented on the Githurai issue: “Kenyans just want to be seen in their cars.” How true.

Speaking about cars, I went to Kijiji Marketi this morning and saw these Rexton 4WDs from Korea on display in front of the market. The director of SYMC Motors (K) Ltd. showed me around and….well….the black one as pictured below (left) sells for about 4.5 mill. Kshs. (tax & VAT incl.).


These SUVs look like the Mercedes M-class and are direct successors of the Mussos which were sold here some time ago (Mercedes engine and similar parts). Now, I would never buy any SUV if I could go for a real LandCruiser or even LandRover instead, but these Rextons surely offer a lot of comfort and luxury and should be compared to Mercedes which actually sell for almost the double price. The only thing that really irritated me was that the processing quality seems to be very low on these cars. I would like to see them on Kenyan roads for two or three years. Also, the contraction joints between the mudguard and the passengers door (especially on the above pictured white Rexton RX 290) where just horrible. My fundi friends back home would cry about these flawy cars SYMC Motors used for presentation.

I like their low budget approach, though. But then, even 4.5 mill Kshs. are A LOT of money.

Money? Yes:

IMG 7689

I found this 10 cents coin on the parking lot of a Ministry in downtown Nairobi and showed it to a Security Guard. The guy just threw it back on the ground and said: “ah…useless…”.

That’s Nairobi.

Author: jke

Hi, I am an engineer who freelances in water & sanitation-related IT projects at You'll also find me on Twitter @jke and Instagram.

4 thoughts on “the lights”

  1. The hawker story = pure brilliance! I had no idea they sold even fishbowls on the streets nowadays. But I guess hawkers have to impress the mzungus with their sophistication, don’t you think?

  2. Am glad to see am not the only one accosted on the highway with ‘useful’ comments about my lights being on. If it is gloomy, whatever time of day it is I will have them on.

    Selling goldfish bowls? That is a new one. :-) I wonder what they will hawk next?

  3. JKE,

    There was a story about how all the 10ct pieces disappeared. Apparently, one of the smarter metal dealers in Nairobi realized that he could buy the coins by weight for smelting into taps/household fitting and pay more that they were worth in face value – I think the math was something like 1 kg of 10cts sold for Kshs. 400 and it had maybe 10000 pieces worth about Kshs. 100 in there.

    So, the handles on your windows at home might have been money at some point . . .


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