Tourism federation pays tribute to ‘missing’ Nairobians as lockdown bites

Streets less populated, hotels empty and business slow

In Summary
  • Despite being the hub of tourism in the country, the Coast region is largely dependent on residents of Nairobi, who throng the region during holidays.
  • KTF chair Mohammed Hersi said ‘Nairobians’, as Nairobi residents are popularly referred to, usually paint the Coast red during such holidays.
Kenya Tourism Federation chair Mohammed Hersi.
Kenya Tourism Federation chair Mohammed Hersi.

The Kenyan Coast is experiencing a different kind of Easter holidays, with activities less lively and less people making merry.

This is attributed to the cessation of movement in the five counties of Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Nakuru by the government to control the spread of the third wave of Covid-19.

Despite being the hub of tourism in the country, the Coast region is largely dependant on residents of Nairobi, who throng the region during holidays and are not afraid to spend and have fun.

And in recognition of their contribution to the tourism sector at the Coast, the Kenya Tourism Federation has crafted a letter lamenting their absence.

Titled ‘Easter without you at the Kenya Coast is never the same’, KTF chair Mohammed Hersi said ‘Nairobians’, as Nairobi residents are popularly referred to, usually paint the Coast red during such holidays.

“This Easter, Mombasa and Kenya Coast is dead and lifeless without you good people,” Hersi tells Nairobians.

Nassir Salim, who owns an eatery specialising in Biryani in Majengo, told the Star that his business had started picking up following the opening of the economy by President Uhuru Kenyatta and was already planning to cash in on the Easter holidays.

“I had to cancel orders for increased rice to make biryani. We normally receive a many people from Nairobi who usually come for biryani, especially during Easter, but now we only have our usual clients, who also say they do not have the money they used to so we have,” said Salim.

“I miss the noise they usually make and the sheng they speak. I admire it just as they admire our Swahili,” Salim noted.

Hersi said the usually noisy Nairobians are a welcome lot at the Coast as long as they bring in the money.

He said in the letter the outgoing nature of the Nairobians gives a welcome break to the more laid back nature of the Coastal people.

“You may be considered noisy but what is life without some noise and happy faces? While Kenya Coast is laid back, Nairobians are the opposite, outgoing and also good spenders. They love fine things in life and why lie? You guys love life and you love merry making,” noted Hersi.

He adds: “Talk of Yuls and Nomad restaurants, imagine we will miss your colourful dressing all set for the beach and in all shapes and sizes. It really did not matter whether you are a swimmer or not.”

In the letter, Hersi said the loud silence of the Moi, Malindi and Ukunda airports and the Mombasa terminus of the SGR is chilling.

He said the taxi drivers, the tuktuk operators and all the eateries from Tarboush to Forodhani to Tamarind, the madafu and muhogo people at Mama Ngina Waterfront have been greatly affected by their absence.

“The supermarkets and all the Airbnbs are also silent. Milk, bread and eggs would fly off the shelves like they grew wings. While stocks ran out when you are in town, it also meant you left behind loads of money in the coast economy,” Hersi wrote.

He said Nairobians bring to life the sleepy towns of Shimoni, Wasini and Kisite.

“On the beach, the vendors in normal times would be smiling since Nairobians and others coming over meant good income for them. From the camel handler with his rides for the young ones and even adults to Halima and Fatma who would be busy with Heena and Piko designs which will be one evidence "Ulifika Coast ",” he penned.

He said the local mamas that hotels would invite to make the traditional Swahili breakfast are at home.

“They know wageni wetu kutoka Nairobi are not able to make it. They feel sad but they understand, warm greetings from them. The viazi vya karai, mahamri, mbaazi and kaimatis will wait till next time,” Hersi noted.

Even the Matatu guys, he said, miss Nairobians since not everyone who comes to Kenya Coast stays in a beach resort.  

Abdalla Said, a matatu operator plying the Bamburi-Ferry route, said he misses teasing the noisy Nairobi guys when they board his matatu.

“When we notice there are Nairoabians in the matatu, we usually tell stories of the genies in Mombasa to scare them off.

“They pretend not to be listening but usually they all remain silent after some time in the matatu when they hear us talking. We then know they are paying attention to us,” said Said.

Hersi, in his letter, also said the Uber folks and many other taxi hailing services will be unusually silent this weekend and all those Ubers would be parked at home.

“Dear Nairobians, it is not your wish to stay at home. It is because of this terrible virus. We thought it was done with us but little did we know it was busy reloading and doing push ups to give us one serious upper cut,” Hersi said.

“From the Kenya Coast, we send you warm greetings and lots of love. We will miss you but stay safe which is more important so that we can host you again with your loved ones in the not so distant future,” he said.

-Edited by Sarah Kanyara

Deserted Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach.
Deserted Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach.
An empty street in Nyali.
DESERTED An empty street in Nyali.