I’ve never been a hang-out-at-the-mall kind of person. The prices are higher than things I can find in the internets or strange alleys, the food courts unappealing, and the general level of “shiny” doesn’t really match my self-concept.
And yet, during my year in Kenya, I spent a lot of time at various malls. When staying in Nairobi, I would find myself in a mall every other day, it seemed. And it makes sense in retrospect: The specialist shops and on-line stores where I usually use to get my obscure electronics aren’t available in Kenya, and food safety seems a bit more reliable in the malls. The biggest factor, though, are the coffee shops. I spend a lot of time in coffee shops wherever I travel, unwinding thoughts and sketching proofs and sipping on a simple black Americano. And most of the coffee shops in Kenya are in malls.
The mall I spent the most time at in Nairobi was The Junction, and most of that time was spent at Art Caffe. It’s a space with a great slice of the mix of modern Nairobi. Yeah, there are a lot of jackass travellers like myself plugged into their laptops, but just as many people stopping through for a business lunch, mommas chatting about their kids, young people hanging out with friends, and men from unidentifiable Eastern European countries discussing possibly shady business in an unidentifiable language. It’s a great cross-section.
It’s also a bit of an escape.