Craft Markets of Kenya

Shopping Essentials

Where to buy: Maasai Market, Nairobi, MacKinnon & Makupa Markets, Mombasa.
What’s in store: Intricate tribal bead work, kanga wraps and african scuptures
Best Buy: Commission your own sculpture or toy


There are loads of things to buy in Kenya for a craft mad traveller. Beadwork is fantastic and there are so many forms depending on the tribe. Beads worn differ from tribe to tribe and symbolise ages, status, beauty and array of other things within the tribe. Even different sects of a tribe prefer certain different beads to express their traditions. Amongst the Masai, theIlkisongo prefer dark red and dark blue beadwork whereas the Ilpurko favour light blue and orange. Beadwork also can express feelings as girls often give armbands as signs of love to young warriors.

Bag a Bargain

One of the best places to get beads if you are not off the beaten track is the Maasai Market or ‘Tuesday Market’ in the capital city of Nairobi. There are over fifty Maasai women who sell traditional wares including beadwork and baskets. It is best to ask a local where the market is as it moves around, mainly due to eviction.

Market Crafts

Kangas, or wraps, are best bought on the coast in Mombasa and Malindi. There is a profusion of colours and designs to choose from. MacKinnon and Makupa Markets in Mombasa are less hectic than Nairobi and have an excellent choice. They are also very good markets to buyAfrican sculpture‘s that are sold in soapstone or blackwood, which is increasingly replacing the rare ebony.

The toys sold in these markets are really individual and beautifully crafted. These make wonderful gifts for both children and adults alike. If you have time on your hands and you find the designs a bit monotonous throughout the crafts, it is possible to order commissions for a truly unique souvenir of Kenya.

Main image: Maasai Market, meaduva, Flickr Creative Commons

By Electra Gilles