On our travels… Soko Day

Market (Soko in Kiswahili) day in villages all over Kenya are a mass of bustling, busy riots of colour and noise! 

Usually market day is an open air affair… in the town’s dusty square, where all the piles of produce; sacks of maize meal, tea-leaves, dried maize, bags of spices and ochre, snuff and tobacco, are all weighed out carefully with a Kimbo tin or tin cup.

A profusion of vegetables are laid out on sacks on the ground and lend another explosion of colour to the scene.  Tomatoes, sukuma-wiki, young maize cobs, potatoes, spinach, carrots, oranges, avocadoes, coriander, chilies, papayas, lemons, huge stems of sweet bananas and green plantain ones all feature in great abundance.

The women, wear kangas, (the word Kanga is a Kiswahili name for a Guinea Fowl, the similarity being in the noise made by the Guinea Fowl is exactly like a bunch of chattering women), brilliantly coloured pieces of cloth wrapped ingeniously around their bodies and on their heads, clashing with the bright and gaudy colours of cheap umbrellas used to shade the sellers from the scorching midday sun.

Kimana Market near the South Eastern border of Kenya, sits in the middle of the acacia dotted plains, with magnificent Mt Kilimanjaro rising above it as the back drop . The market is in a hot and dusty but surprisingly busy little ramshackle town, with brightly painted kiosks built of tin or wood decorated with naïve drawings depicting the shop’s speciality. The butcher is a crude painting of a cow underneath a sign proclaiming ‘Bloody Good Meat’, adorns the outer walls. Inside the kiosk are great slabs of meat, legs and carcasses hanging on massive meat hooks and proudly displayed in the window.  The local hardware exhibits paintings of hammer and nails on the outside pillars while the hairdresser salon displays drawings of the latest available styles.

Maasai favour, plastic roses from China, and bright, plastic tubs of fats and oils, used to anoint the body and hair. Not to be forgotten, handmirrors, encased in brightly coloured plastic… this is a treasured possession indeed for the Maasai Morani, who like to bead the mirrors into their long hair, so they can keep checking on their adornments.

Adding to the already dizzying array of colours are the Maasai dressed in their traditional red shukas and beads who make a startling contrast to the smartly dressed businessmen as they jostle shoulder-to-shoulder for the best bargains. 

Money transactions usually require the lady seller to dig deep between her often ample cleavage to retrieve a handkerchief filled with change.  Once the deal is done – back down goes the loot for safe-keeping.

The cattle market is just metres away from the food market and is equally as colourful as it is dominated by the Maasai Moran (young warriors) strutting their stuff, in full regalia, including ochre dyed hair and laden with beaded jewellery.  The old and wizened Maasai are there as well and everyone bustles about checking out the cattle, sheep and goats while bantering, laughing and negotiating.  This is serious business, however, as cattle are the lifeblood of the Maasai and fortunes are bought and sold here.

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