Kenya is a curio shopper’s paradise. Options abound from locally made beadwork and carvings to baskets from the East Africa region, and even textiles and masks from far away Central and Western Africa. A quick flip through any guidebook will offer you the list of items that tourists typically seek out: Maasai Beadwork, Kamba Wood Carvings, soapstone statues, and Swahili textiles, which can be found in almost every tourist shop and at the bustling Maasai markets found around town. While these make for beautiful souvenirs they don’t always mesh well with IKEA living room sets and the taupe palate favored by every property management company in the United States.
So here are my top 5 Kenyan souvenirs that are actually useful for non-African themed homes:
1) Sandstorm Bags:
Top-quality bags are made with heavy-duty canvas and leather that look just as good in the overhead bin on a regional jet as they do in the back of a safari truck. Ok, these are on the pricier end of the souvenir spectrum – around Ksh 10,000 to 25,000 (US $115 – $300). But they are MUCH more expensive outside of Kenya. You can pick them up at Junction Shopping Center and the Village Market.
2) Kitengela Glass:
Beautiful locally blown glass featuring rustic stylings and lots of fun and unique pieces. If you order a set (8 glasses for instance) they will do custom color orders.
3) Gemini Desai:
Incredible jewelry made with antique trade beads set in modern arrangements. Be careful, I have seen people burn up their charge cards at this place. It’s also very tricky to find. I have included a map in the hyperlink.
Kenya has some incredible local food that travels very well. I always stock up on tea (Abadares brand), coffee (go to Nairobi Java House and ask for whole beans delivered that day), honey (look for the super dark local stuff that is raw and un-pasteurized), spices (cloves, vanilla pods, birds eye chillis, and Ethiopian spices).
5) Bata Safari Boots:
So this is for the guys only – but they also make some great flats that Emily swears by for a little over $30. Great chukka-style boots that wear iron and feel like loafers.
As you can see I don’t just buy small stools and dung paintings. I get useful stuff too. So the next time Emily posts about some skull beads made in Nigeria that I brought home (just yesterday to be exact) please remind her that it’s not all silliness and dust collectors.
What are the best souvenirs you’ve bought on a trip?