Most visitors form a connection with the places they’ve journeyed to, and it’s often not easy having to leave an amazing experience behind. If you visit Kenya, you might find it hard to go home after you’ve had your fill of the Kenyan sun, sand and wildlife. The good news is that Kenya is a shopper’s paradise when it comes to souvenirs. Here’s a list of souvenirs you should get in Kenya that will give you nothing but fond memories of your time in the country.
If you can’t make it to Kenya in person, we’ve also provided links that allow you to buy many of these items on Amazon.com.
Top on the list of the best souvenirs to buy is a Maasai shuka. They come in resplendent green, red and blue colors, and can be used in many different ways. You could make a scarf out of one, use it as a tablecloth, or use it as a picnic blanket. Grab one at the Maasai market in Nairobi for around US$7.
Soapstone originates in the Tabaka Hill region of Kisii County. You can get these exquisite handmade carvings in most curio shops. They mostly depict animal figures, although you may be able to commission a craftsman to carve a special design for a fee. The prices vary depending on the carving itself, the pattern and color.
A kiondo is a hand-woven sisal handbag that’s indigenous to the Kikuyu and Kamba tribes of Kenya. They come in different colors and are quite comfortable to carry around. Due to the fiber they’re made from, kiondos are long-lasting and tear-resistant. Get one at a curio shop and rock it when you get back home — your friends will have no idea how you became so hip.
The Kamba people produce some of the best quality woodwork this side of the Sahara, and their beautiful ebony carvings are definitely worth buying. It could be an animal carving, a person or any other abstract concept. These shiny artifacts will light up your living room as memories of your trip to Kenya. Most curio shops, hotels and resorts display these ebony carvings for sale, so they are easy to find.
Maasai beadwork consists of intricately connected beads that make beautiful neck pieces, bracelets and earrings. These are perfect gifts or fashion accessories which you can incorporate into your wardrobe. Nothing else says you’ve recently been to Kenya like rocking a Maasai bracelet. Get this jewelry at Maasai markets and in curio shops. Prices start at as little as US$1 per piece.
Similar to a shuka, a kikoy is a beautiful rectangular piece of cotton that can be used as a garment for males and females. The vibrancy of color that a kikoy radiates is simply amazing. It can also be used as a sarong, a beach towel or even a turban. Get one at selected shops on Biashara Street, Nairobi, or at the coast, where they are common in most shops. They can be had for around US$7 to $10.
Kenyan coffee is undoubtedly some of the best that can be found on the planet. It’s well known for its intense flavor, full body, and pleasant aroma. Grab a packet of original ground Kenyan coffee in the supermarket, or in leading coffee houses such as Dormans.
This type of artwork first appeared in Uganda, but later spread to Nairobi. You can find galleries that deal in batik art all around the city, often by notable artists such as Senkota, Mutyaba and Lukenge.
Green tsavorite gemstones
The tsavorite gemstone is found near the world-famous Tsavo National Park, hence the name tsavorite. It’s a shiny green stone whose fresh, vivid green combined with its good wearing qualities, great brilliance and relatively reasonable price makes it the perfect souvenir.
Made from recycled tires, an akala is a type of sandal that is made in Kenya. They are quite popular with Kenyan men and they sell on the streets from US$2 to $5 a pair. Akalas and boast 10 times the longevity of normal footwear. You can have yours customized with beads, or just a pattern of your choice.
Shields and spears
The Maasai also make incredible shields that can be found in numerous small villages. They might be a bit large to carry back on the plane, but many come apart and can be packed inside your luggage.
This colorful garment can be worn by both men and women, but it’s mostly a traditional type of dress worn by coastal Kenyan women. It’s a rectangular piece of printed cotton fabric which has a message at the bottom, usually a Swahili saying. Kangas are also referred to as lesos. Get yourself a kanga and rock it as a scarf, head wrap or simply as a wrap around the waist. A piece goes for around US$4 to $6.
Throughout east Africa, and including Kenya, of course, African masks make fantastic souvenirs to bring home and display on your walls. The Wakamba specialize in this type of carving, with hardwoods such as mahogany or ebony being the primary material. Don’t go for the cheap painted wood that is made to look polished — try to find the good stuff.
A kitenge is like a kanga, but they’re usually a bit cheaper and don’t have a message on them (not everybody wants to display a Swahili saying on their clothes). They can readily be found in markets and are quite beautiful.
From the nyatiti used to play the locally popular Benga music, to the calabash, to the table drum, uniquely Kenyan musical instruments can all be found in local markets. If you’re looking to hear some interesting sounds, or just to decorate your home, these certainly make a great souvenir.
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