Westgate Didn’t Make Nairobi Boring, You Did

Westgate 2
Westgate Under Attack

It was in the news that they intend to reopen Westgate in 2 years. That was one of the lingering questions about the mall and the land. What would happen to it now? Are they gonna break it down and turn it into apartments? Are they gonna make it a memorial space? Will they turn it into some sort of a park? What’s their plan? To hear that they intend to reopen it surprised me at first.

In the last few days, they reopened the road that led to Westgate and well, was right outside Westgate.

Yesterday morning, I had to go to the doc to get my throat checked out before it got more serious and turned into a flu or the bad coughs I always get. Mum said she’d drive me. There was a ridiculous amount of traffic in Nairobi yesterday, especially around Westlands. We got stuck at the corner of Lower Kabete Road connecting to Pepni Road. Mum, knowing that the road’s opened up and will actually be the easiest way to escape from the traffic, asked me “Do I have your permission to pass through the Westgate road?”. Seeing the traffic and eventually having to face it, I said use it. And so we passed Westgate.

It wasn’t hurtful, it wasn’t disturbing. But it was interesting. I was curious. I was looking so closely, details. How the hell did gun shots get up there? Ah that’s where they went through. Mabati’s all over the place. Guards “guarding” the place. ArtCaffe still have their signage all over the place. Company signs are starting to wither away now. The ramp. That’s where those assholes who got to the rooftop came through. And now we’re next to Ukay Centre.

Westgate 1
Inside Westgate after the attack

When I heard that Westagte will reopen in 2 years, I thought to myself, yea never flipping gonna go there again. Then said, who on Earth WOULD go there again? What do people think they’re doing? Why would you reopen the place to begin with? Have you no heart? That was a blood pool for days. Death lingers in the mall. Why would anyone want to reopen one of the most devastating places in Nairobi?

But why not?

Embassy 1
US Embassy Bombing 1998
Co-Op
Ground Zero today.
Embassy 2
Disaster at the US Embassy Bombing 1998

After the US Embassy bombing in August 1998, it’s now known as Ground Zero. They didn’t take the building down nor did they reopen the US Embassy. They made it the Head Quarters for Co-Op Bank for a couple of years also created a memorial garden. The building still exists. It still stands there tall and strong. I bet no one even looks at the building now and thinks, 15 years ago, this building was bombed and 213 people died here that day. Even those who lost loved ones, I bet it rarely crosses their minds these days as they pass the building, or perhaps they don’t even go that way to avoid the recollection of horrifying memories.

I bumped into a friend yesterday and he goes to me “I’ve been traveling the world (he only went to Dubai for a couple of days by the way) and man Kenya is SO BORING!!!” I didn’t want to say much about that because well, he’s wrong.

So Westgate isn’t active anymore. But what was Westgate for people that suddenly, ever since, Nairobi’s boring?

It had everything The Junction Mall, Village Market, Prestige Plaza, Yaya Centre, need I mention every other mall in Nairobi, has. Coffee shops, Designer Clothing Stores, Cinema’s, Supermarkets, Hair salons, Kids corner and SO MUCH MORE. You’re just lazy to drive across town and perhaps just want to avoid traffic.

Westgate was so central, it was essential and convenient. The perfect meet up spot. It was bright and welcoming and modern and filled with a fresh environment of energy from all walks of life. Sarit Centre’s up the road, has pretty much all the same stuff. Turns 30 years old as Kenya turns 50. How many people hang over there now? Traffic’s at its peak when you go to The Junction. I haven’t been to many other malls since, but it’s not a joy ride going there, especially over the weekend.

But to avoid the jam and to stop calling Nairobi boring, what have we got to?

EXPLORE!

Giraffe_-_Skyline_-_Nairobi_-_Park
A Giraffe in the Nairobi National Park with CBD in the background

Nairobi has some pretty awesome things to do aside “hanging out at a mall”. Go to the Giraffe Centre, go to the Elephant Orphanage, go for a Safari Walk, go for a Game Drive in the Nairobi National Park, I mean come on! We’re the ONLY country with a huge National Park in the middle of the Capital! Hang out with your friends and family at a Koroga joint, go Ice-Skating at the only other Ice rink in Africa at the Panari Hotel! Check out plays and live bands in the evenings at various places in Nairobi, have a get together at home… A house party or a movie night! Make Nairobi a fun place and stop whining about how boring it is. It really isn’t! Like a friend always says… Only boring people get bored. There’s so much to do here, only if you’re open to it. Go for sun-downers on top of the Ngong Hills, or KICC. Go for a boat ride at Uhuru Park. Go for a walk in Karura Forest and check out the Waterfall and Caves there. Go for a Kenya Nights event. The list really is endless.

I bet you when Westgate reopens, the same people who say I’ll never go to Westgate, WILL go to Westgate. I for one will have to go to Westgate, for whatever reason I may have. Yes, it’s gonna be difficult. But life’s all about overcoming your fears. Once you face them, nothing aside death will be able to take anything away from you. And you can’t even do or say anything about that because we are all gonna die one day. So why fear every other day-to-day things, when the ultimate fear, perhaps, is death?

As much as I first thought reopening Westgate is such a bad idea, come to think of it, it’s brilliant idea. What better way to show those f***ing terrorists that they didn’t win. What better way to say “in your face!”. What better way than to show the world we’re strong and will overcome any circumstances that you may put us through?!

Over looking CBD from Uhuru Park
Over looking CBD from Uhuru Park

This is just one of the biggest reasons why we should be celebrating Kenya at 50. We’re strong people with big hearts and no one can just come into our country and take over. We always come out of things bigger and stronger.

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7 thoughts on “Westgate Didn’t Make Nairobi Boring, You Did

  1. In the UAE we hang out in malls because there aren’t many options especially in the heat + all the malls are pretty much identical and it really gets boring after a while. So no, I would disagree with your friend who has been to dubai, kenya is NOT boring.

  2. I was talking to someone in the short trip of the elevator ride today and he asked me where I’m from. I told him Kenya and he spoke about MAsai Mara, the migration and how he would really WISH to go there (and there I was thinking I’ve never been there myself). Another French colleague was asking me about the Safari cz she wanted to take the family there soon. I told her “you’re sure after the mall attack?” She said, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere. It shouldn’t stop us from visiting places.

    1. A Kenyan not having to visit the Maasai Mara at any point in their lives, is very normal. I went there for the first time in my entire life 2 weeks before Westgate happened. I suppose that’s another reason why I encourage people to get out of Nairobi and explore Kenya, as I never had the chance to do so when I was younger, but taking every opportunity I get now. At least you know you won’t have terrorists attacking you in the wild.

  3. Salaam Sadia,

    What a brilliant piece, you are indeed very brave, cannot for one minute imagine what you went through but you are leading the way in showing those ar**holes that they have not and will never win. You are absolutely right not re-opening Westgate is admitting defeat to these ar**holes. You are a true inspiration and keep blogging.

    Cheers.

    Mo Chaudhry

  4. Nice.
    I work right next to Westgate so it was my go-to hangout over lunch and after work. Now I see it everyday being cleaned up, debris being cleared, noise, etc.
    Sure I’m missing the convenience of taking a 2 minute stroll to it, but as you said, there is no shortage of other places to keep us entertained and satisfied in Nairobi.

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