Besides his acclaimed textbook contributions to the country’s political landscape, Kenneth Matiba’s mercurial business acumen was a major factor in the growth of this area. Various real estate holdings on this road are credited to his name.
A vital nerve ending in the city’s transport system, Tea Room resonates with the first fond memories for most Nairobi residents. It’s famous for an unapologetic bitter-sweet reception for wide-eyed villagers seeking to dig a hungry fork into the city’s buffet of goodies.
A lot of times, things will go well for a first-timer. Sometimes, Murphy’s Law comes at play in this arena.
The city’s business end of it’s fangs – which thrive well in this area – will snatch up a first-timer, chew and regurgitate the remains back to oblivion. The wheels of fate turn fast for a clueless guest.
It’s a chaotic scene. The cacophony is overwhelming. Hooting vehicles. Blaring music. Touts yelling. A fast (and, furious) whizz of pedestrians on squeezed pavements. It’s not uncommon to see touts in physical fights for a passenger.
In this melee, Tea Room becomes a Bermuda Triangle. Luggage disappears or gets swapped. A suitcase of clothes? At home, it’ll be a suitcase of dried banana leaves.
Tea Rooms reeks with street ‘surgeons’. A predatory clique of suave gentlemen in fitting blazers and polished leather shoes. They prowl the pavements armed with razors. They hunt, literally.
They spot – and, smell – a potential victim alighting from a mile away. They’ll tail a ‘client’ for a mile, waiting to strike. Their skills? They chop-chop wallets and phones from your inner pockets.
Tea Room bus terminus is the boarding point for lots of inland travel. The Rift Valley arteries to Nakuru, Naivasha and Eldoret. Central Kenya regions like Nyeri, Murang’a and beyond. The anchor tenant, though, is the Meru transport community. It’s turned the terminus into a de facto, traditional meeting point for Meru folks.
There’s the Dubois Road, and Tsavo Road that links Accra Road to Latema Road. Ignore. Running parallel, there’s an alley – it’s unpaved. It’s tiny, no vehicles – perhaps, a bike. It’s the busiest – and most lethal – it’s known as the Moringa Alley.
The alley hosts the iconic Moringa Pub, hence its name. No one says: Let’s meet at Tea Room – it’s always: Bro, nipate Moringa!
The alley is neglected – raw sewage open lines and puddles. That doesn’t bother clients. It’s a fertile range of clients.
Rowdy gangs of college students on the economic breadline swirling tap beer and cheap spirits. Civil servants in coats and ties. The upmarket business executive, in smart casuals and the average street hustlers. They skip on stones to escape puddles.
The stalls are tiny, lots of business happens outdoors. The faceless investors have erected canvas canopies on steel frameworks. It blocks out sunlight. But, it’s easy to figure out why.
There’s a constant pitty-patter of water on the canopies. It’s not raining. Filthy water drips from above. Blame poor plumbing in upper blocks.
What hits first is the alluring smell of roasting meat. There are open barbeques – goat liver and intestines. Chicken gizzards. A few gigantic cauldrons brimming with soup and goat heads. Oh, the local Mutura cuisine, with generous toppings of Kachumbari.
Award-winning street food fanfare, on a budget. Except, the roast jikos and stoves stand on raw sewage puddles.
On the flip side, this lane is packed with the city’s ‘regurgitated’ human products – a legion of hookers, thugs and drug addicts napping on shredded cartons. Most of them are homeless.
However, business is booming, and a daily cash flow estimate would touch hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
There’s a row of tiny liquor shops, an assortment of retail shops and electronic appliance outlets. A discerning observation, though, shows that it’s just a facade. A strong undercurrent flows here – drugs, and sex. Anything goes.
This alley’s profile takes pride in the Miraa (and Muguka) business.
As an offshoot, the official language is ‘Merian’. After Eastleigh, this is perhaps the city’s next best chewing zone. Again, in this aspect, societal class is rendered null and void. Khat is a curious indulgence.
The basics on Khat chewing presents a highly credible PhD-thesis case study idea: How does a lowly college student blend so easily with a top business executive in a chewing session?
If you’ve recently lost a phone to a sneaky pickpocket, pay a visit to Moringa lane. Chances are, you’ll be offered the same phone at a fraction of the cost. Don’t argue, or ask of its ownership. Bargain for the best price, and pay up.
Then skip over puddles and join the flow of humanity on the pavement.
Nairobi ni Shamba La Mawe, or so it’s called.