The concept of Nai Nami (Swahili for ‘Nairobi with me’) is rather genius: who better to show one the streets of downtown Nairobi than the kids who used to live in those very streets and had to have their smarts about them to survive?
The company currently employs seven guides, all former street kids, and using strengths such as storytelling and entertaining which they have honed naturally over the years, gives them an opportunity to make a better living.
Their walking tours have so far been well received, with over 2,000 guests from over 75 countries having signed up within one year. When the Nomad team got an invite to check out the city from co-founder Gianmarco Marinello, we simply could not pass up the chance to get reacquainted with certain parts of Nairobi that we don’t get to visit as often as we’d like.
We had been linked up with four guides; Mrembe, Kissmart, Cheddar and Donga, and on the said day, met up right outside the Hilton Nairobi, a pretty central location in the CBD. After the usual pleasantries were exchanged, we set off for Nairobi Railway Station, a place known to many as a bus stop with matatus heading to different parts of the city. Kissmart led the way with one guest while the other guest, our editor, walked behind with Mrembe. The other two guides then trailed behind, possibly for security.
Mrembe launched into his life story, talking about how he ended up on the unforgiving streets of Nairobi as a child and had to raise himself by doing odd jobs such as collecting plastic from rubbish heaps. When he hit puberty, this soon gave way to theft, a decision that led to his best friend being gunned down at Bus Station. He himself was almost beaten to death by an angry mob when he was caught stealing. Their stories are much more complex than this space would allow, but we were so engrossed in them that we didn’t notice the two hours pass by, or how much distance we had covered walking to OTC, Riverside, Kariokor market where we got some souvenirs, down to Ngara and back up to Moi Avenue where we finally stopped for a hearty lunch at a kibanda.
A suggestion is to ask for the itinerary beforehand, read up on the places then kick back and get immersed in the stories.