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The name of the Village Market, located in Nairobi's embassy district, is a bit misleading. There are some outdoor market stalls, but this is hardly a simple village market: in fact this is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in East Africa. However, it does have a rural feel – albeit a very chic one.
A multitude of plants and an artificial river with a waterfall lend the shopping area a rural African feel. The architecture evokes the ambiance of a cosy village. But make no mistake: people mainly come here to shop and eat. More than 150 stores offer exclusive products. Every Friday there is a large Masai market and the venue also hosts many performances and events that draw huge crowds.
Inaugurated 14 years ago, the Village Market was a pioneering endeavour in Nairobi. The shopping centre is located in the affluent Gigiri district, about 6 miles from the city centre. Today the complex encompasses nearly 20,000 square metres of shops and restaurants. And the complex is still expanding; design hotel Tribe was added only a few years ago. The complex is also known for regular sightings of international celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman and the artists who performed at the MTV Africa Music Awards. The Village Market also hosts major events such as fashion shows and concerts.
The construction of a conference centre is advancing fast. And to meet the growing demand for luxury goods, the outdated amusement park will make way for more retail space, where major international brands will set up shop.
However, the complex is not just about sparkling wealth; small, local entrepreneurs have also been given plenty of space. The Friday Masai market is one of the most popular attractions. Vendors offer an impressive selection of classic local arts and crafts, ranging from textiles to jewellery, ingenious wood carvings and beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Unlike in the elegant shops, market vendors expect buyers to bargain hard – just like at any real Kenyan village market.
The Village Market is the favourite meeting place of Nairobi’s affluent residents. After a lunch in the pleasant food court, locals pick up a colourful bouquet at the florist or buy some shiny eggplants at the vegetable stand. If you have just returned from a safari in the bush, head to the beauty salon for a pampering session. Or stop by before your departure to take home some exclusive souvenirs – from Persian carpets to cashmere scarves.