The 14th of the month is a very special day for every Nairobian. No, it doesn't have anything to do with residents of this biggest city in the region, inundating their company finance departments asking for advances on their salary. It does happen, especially in this month with 74 days. But that is not the reason for the excitement across the city in this case. The reason for it is that this is the day that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) announces whether the price of fuel has gone up or down in the last month. This day has been depressing for the last few years as the price went up by shillings most of the times, and went down by cents in the few months it did.
In recent times, the price of fuel has been acting up in the world market as it went down drastically. The price has gone down so much that the last time it was retailing at these prices was over five years ago. This has happened because of a large number of factors. Even as the price of fuel went down by half the prices, it went down only very slightly in Kenya. However, last month the ERC made a radical move as it cut pump prices by Sh5, which is quite big for them. As they made their announcement for January on Wednesday, some sections of Nairobians almost went into a frenzy on social media as they speculated that the price would go down by as much as Sh20 from the current Sh102. Eventually the price announced was down by only SH X. It wasn't as big as expected, but it was enough to whet the appetite of many of us.
You would imagine that the reduction of the price of fuel will have a very small effect on the lives of a resident of this city but you will be wrong. It affects everyone as fuel is an integral part of our lifestyles nowadays. Let's start with the people who drive cars, whatever the make. At one point in time, before the mad fuel prices, the typical driver would pull into a petrol station and tell the attendant, “weka mia mbili” (put in two hundred). This has changed, as for the same amount of fuel one needs to use Sh300-500. If the prices then go down to levels of five or six years ago, you can expect the return of the famous, “weka mia mbili.” If you think that there is traffic, then you haven't seen anything yet as everything with wheels floods the road. “Jam City” as we know Nairobi, now will officially become “Gridlock City” as the original KAA to KCA vehicles from the 1960s and 1970s return.
It's not just the increase in traffic we can expect. You can expect a radical change in the dating game as we know it. In the recent times, to impress a young woman that you are worthy of showing her a good time, all you needed to show up with was a car. Any old clunker, which has been maintained a bit showed that you are a very serious contender. You would be able to take care of any children that come from your union. With the prices going down, a car will not be enough to impress anyone. You will be judged on what car you are driving as well as what else you bring to the table. Can your car go longer distances? Can it go to areas that weak cars can't navigate due to the bad state of the roads? Those without vehicles will be prayed for as chances of you getting a girlfriend and subsequently married will be pegged on you having your own home and a car.
There are ways that non drivers will be affected. With the return of the cars, you can expect the children to follow suit with their inventiveness. Don't be surprised to hear that the estates of Nairobi have reprised the famous “safari rally” that kids did in the past with toy cars fashioned from Kimbo tins and wire. The new races with toy cars fashioned from cellphone packaging will not be called Safari Rally but will instead be called “Thika Road Jam” or “Outering Road Jam” depending on where the kids are based. These jams will see some of the kids with racers or riders while others will play corrupt traffic cops, who have roadblocks officers wielding the Alcoblow machine. Part of the game for the kids will include giving each other tips on the position of Alcoblow with the use of cellphones fashioned from mud and trying out a way to avoid the roadblocks.
Venue review: Rico Caribbean, Nairobi West Mall, Nairobi West
The search for places where prices of drinks in Nairobi in these hard 'Njaa-nuary' times continues. I was at the Nairobi West Mall on Sunday afternoon when I had been told two things about one of the pubs there. One is that it had very reasonably priced drinks, and the second is that it allegedly has some of the best pork in town. When I arrived at the mall, it became evident that it wasn't like I had imagined as this was not one pub – it looked to be a huge number of them in that one little mall. I made my way to the back with my partner who was the one who had referred me to the place.
The interesting thing was this drinking area looked very food court like. There was one continuous area where one could drink, and then some stand like pubs where staff came to serve punters.
I sat at the Rico bar and ordered a cold Tusker from a friendly waitress Winnie, which was retailing at Sh160. I considered it reasonable in these harsh days. With my drink before me, I enquired about this legendary pork and a kilo was sent for which cost Sh550. This included ugali and kachumbari; again not unreasonable.
As I downed my drinks and waited for my meal I looked around me. There were TV screens all around that ensured that I could follow the action from the English premier league. On offer this day was Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama who plays for Southampton Football Club making mincemeat of a famous club from Manchester.
At the pub with us were an interesting group of punters. They were mainly professional guys in their late 30s and 40s who were downing Jameson whiskey, White Cap lager and related drinks. They all seemed to be friends who drink here together on a regular basis as the jokes were coming fast and thick as the matches went on.
Eventually the food came and I concurred with whoever had recommended it – this is some of the best pork on offer in this town. Very few places offer this quality of food at this price.
A quick recap of the venue:
Good: Decent, football fans can catch the game from the many TVs, great service, reasonably priced food and drinks, clean washrooms.
Bad: Disability-unfriendly, emergency exits not clearly marked.
My verdict: Good food and drinks at reasonable prices. This is an ideal place to watch a match with your older friends.