By Boniface Mwalii

Masks! Masks everywhere! There are blue ones, black ones, branded ones, Ankara printed ones,
stringed ones, elastic strapped…it goes on and on.

It’s incredible how an item that was virtually non-existent a couple of months ago has become one of the most in demand retail commodities in Nairobi.

One thing is for sure, you cannot get into Nairobi’s Galleria Mall without one. Fortunately they are in plentiful supply from the craft market and mall entrance for about Ksh. 200 a piece.

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For Isaac, who mans the shoe shine stand near the mall’s Magadi Road entrance, the face mask has become an indispensable tool in his trade as patrons slowly start trickling back into the commercial complex.

After more than two months of quarantines and lockdowns, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent
proclamation extending daytime working hours seems to have brought some shine back to what had become dull and deserted hallways.

The packed parking lot is an apparent indicator of the gradual return to a semblance of normalcy.

According to one of the security guards stationed within the mall, there was barely any motorized (or human) traffic in the months of April and May.

The few visitors mainly comprised of intermittent shoppers looking to stock up on supplies from the Carrefour supermarket, the occasional bank customer and patients seeking emergency services from the Nairobi Hospital Outpatient Centre located in the
mall’s uppermost deck.

While the mall has always been popular with families, it is currently mostly patronized by solo or sparse pairs of shoppers. As a result, the kids play areas and arcades are now permanently closed.

If it’s any consolation, the Bazooka toy store on the ground floor has now re-opened after remaining closed for the better part of the lockdown period.

In the midst of all the uncertainty, the mall has somehow still managed to attract a new outlet.

The “all organic” Mbuzi Munch bistro is a welcome addition to Galleria’s diverse culinary offerings.

The rustic outdoor eatery offers a range of mbuzi treats ranging from traditional choma to the more gentrified goat quesadilla and a variety of flavourful lava grilled renditions in between.

With an average prep-time of about 20 minutes per meal, the Italian inspired restaurant is an ideal stopover for moderately priced sit-in meals as well as grab and go take-aways.

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(Un)fortunately, they do not serve the infamous ‘Kagwe Special’ but their unique wine selection more than makes up for it.

Nightlife however remains a distant rumour at Galleria.

Whereas the mall previously ran a 24 hour
operation, most outlets are now closed by 7 PM.

The Brew Taproom which launched with considerable fanfare back in 2018 appears to have shut its doors for good.

Revelers now either have to make do with
the available eat and drink options, get a takeout from the Whisky Shop or order from online retailers who have partnered with some of the stores.

Have you visited any of Nairobi’s malls during the Covid-19 lockdown? What was your experience like?

Tell us what it was like in the comment section below.

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