Friday, May 2, 2008

Mombasa - Not Always A Clean Haven

For many people, the mental image of Mombasa is a place with cool hotels and sun kissed beaches. Well, we have plenty of those. And then some. Mombasa is a beautiful place to say the least.

But then we also have hovels for pubs. Like one I came face to face with a few weeks ago when the boys from the office offered to buy me lunch where they eat. We shall call it Club X. I’d heard of it so much and was eager to visit.

I did not exactly expect to be going to the Ritz Carlton but as soon as we got into the parking I was sure we had made a wrong turn. The half done un-kept structure could not possibly be the famous Club X! Something was not right. But curiously the parking lot was so full that even finding a spot was quite a task. All those people could not be wrong, I encouraged myself. Still I was skeptical about the cheap tables and plastic chairs.

Well, it turned out we were in the right place alright. And whoever designed Club X should be prosecuted in a court of law. The first thing we came across on our way to the sitting area was the washrooms and with them the unmistakable pungent stench of ammonia. Next the butchery with the grotesque carcasses hanging upside down with just about every inch covered with flies. Then the bar and finally the sitting area. To think that part of those carcasses would soon be on a plate near me!

By the time we identified a table and sat down, I was just about finished. But Club X was not done with me yet. The waitress delivered the knock out blow when she came to clean the table. Or rather to smear it with foul smelling diesel apparently to keep away the flies. It would have been easier on the soul if it worked but other than make us sit awkwardly with our hands to ourselves, it did not work on the flies. They were back attempting to land as soon as she was done wiping. No wonder all the patrons were waving their hands from side to side amid bites and sips. I unraveled that mystery when I found myself doing the same - they were chasing away the flies.

To make my life easier, I decided to concentrate my energies on looking for something positive about the place. There had to be. The place was so packed! Ok, the place was well stocked. It was not one of those places you visit and there is either no cold coke or no warm this and that. It seemed everything everyone ordered was there. And considering the way it was packed, the waiters were very efficient. That’s all. Unless maybe the free drinking water they provided in greasy sticky jugs was a point in their favour.

And the tap! Oh God the tap! There was no sink under the tap. Just a bucket to collect the dirty water as the patrons washed their hands. And some pieces of panga soap. Call me whatever but I could not touch it. I figured I was better off with the dirt from all the handshakes than with what I might collect from touching that tap. Hence I did not wash my hands. By the time the food hit the table, the plates piled on top of other plates, my appetite was mince. I managed to eat, but only the meat. Maybe because it came hot from the fire. Plus choma is always tasty. I was however unable to ignore some very unpleasant thoughts about the vegetable salad and so I did not touch it.

Using the washroom was one stunt I was not going to pull. Seems nose powdering ladies are not welcome here – just hardcore drunkards who believe that a bathroom is a bathroom is a bathroom. As for me, at the first sign of a bathroom break, I was out of the club like a bat out of hell feeling like a million amoebic dysentery causing pathogens were crawling all over me. I grew up preparing and sometimes eating my meals in a smoke filled kitchen back in the village, but it was not dirty.

I’ve obviously not been to the men’s washrooms but I got a candid description from someone who had. Let’s just say it’s not advisable to visit before eating – otherwise you won’t eat.


Anonymous said...

hahahahahaha!! that is so funny i can just imagine!! i am sorry about your experience but i am glad you went through it so u can come tell us such a funny story!!

u know, i have been dragged to one of those joints by the way....under the guise that it was very popular and the place to be in, parklands nairobi!! aiii when i went there i was in shock...ati popular nyamachoma joint?! it wasnt really dirty or anything but i just didnt get the popular part. afadhali mtu aninunulie nyama aniletee kwa nyumba instead of taking me to those shady places.

my worst experience wanjiku was when i had to escort my mother to burma market in city stadium nairobi to buy her weekly stock of meat, i guess its cheaper there....wacha hii yako, there!! people stand at the gate of the big market with a knife and meat in their dirty hands and i am telling you these people are really dirty, with very dirty meat coats asking you to 'onja' their meat so that you can go buy from their stalls afterwards!! then they follow you around the market with that piece in their hand!! am sure they even put it down anywhere when they rest!!

about the soap i understand by the way, i wont lie to you, me hata panga soap ya kenchic i dont shika and its not maringo!! i also just assume my hands must be much cleaner than those things regardless of who i had greeted before.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Mrembo lol. I've not been to Burma but I can just imagine. You've described it so clearly lol. Mrembo are you sure they do that? Stand at the gate with meat and a knife? gosh that's gross! that kasoap - yeah wacha turinge my sister there's no touching that one. Soap dispensers these days are going for less than 500 bob!

Abass said...

I still don't get it Wanjiku.Did you say popular, fully parked or something? My question is WHY? I thought I would find the answer to this question at the end of your post but it wasn't to be. So why is such a dirty place so popular? Or maybe you forgot to add the prefix un?

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Abbas yes the place is always packed and I still don't get it either. I've tried to ask friends who frequent there why it's always packed and they just laugh - ati the meat is always fresh bla bla bla. I dont get it, there's lots of fresh meat in other places. I guess it's mostly people who like to have their fun with lots of noise. It's not unlikely to find the kind who sing their heads off when they're high. In other hotels such noise is unbecoming.

And it's not the only one. There are lots of other such pubs that are like that and still get lots of clients.

Karish-Mombasa said...

Wanjiku i think I know the club you're talking about. it's exactly the noise why we go. we dont want to be in a pub where you have to be so behaved. We are drunks for god's sake. We want noise.

M-Pesa said...

I don't care what you say but I love Mombasa too much, not to live there but just for cool hols to unwind from the madness of Nairobi. The problem is everytime I hire a car there, it's side mirrors always get stolen despite having number plates 'engraved' on them something very unusual in Nai. Bobs Place is cool coz of the live band which despite being underated should be one of the best in the country. Mombasa Raha for me any time for me.....

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

M-pesa karibu Mombasa. It's a beautiful place. Bobs is 1000 cleaner than the joint I have in mind.

Karish let me know what your guess is.

M-pesa it's unusual in Nai to have the side mirrors stolen? I'm learning. Always thought Nai is the mother of them all.

Anonymous said...

Curiosity killed the cat…
Shiko your curiosity almost killed you, We almost lost you ... kwani!!!! you don’t listen to the news about the health alert regarding cholera outbreak. ama you only depend on kumekucha for your news.
Shiko why go to places where losers dine. just from the way you described the behavior of the patrons I can tell why the place is just unclean. I mean the patrons waving their hands I think you just crushed on a bunch of ODM-K supporters suffering from WSS (WIPER SALUTE SYNDROM). I am told this syndrome is contagious and I can see you have already got infected…..I am sure you are “wipering” alone in the office… I hope your boss is not a stanch ODM supporter like Mrembo and Taabu. Anyway let me pray that he is in a good mood other wise the disaster is obvious.
Pole Dada next time tell the boys to take you to some where dissent, after all I know you are a lady in a class of her own you deserve a better place ama change the boys, look for better ones. By the way how was the nyama choma testing…..since you are not a pastoralist, could be you tried a donkey’s meat for the first time and you have no clue?
Jokes a has become apparent in major towns in kenya , Mombassa especially, any hotel, club or any other eating places which don’t entertain muzungus as their patrons, have very poor standards more or less like the club X. I don’t know why the proprietors of these places think we Kenyans of African origin are third class human beings.
Maybe we are. I think just because we don’t demand for good standards, once the food meets our taste that is all. To prove that, shiko, next time you visit club x…which I don’t recommend….. Just interview the patrons, ask them about their profession I am sure you will be shocked to know that most of them are doctors, public health technicians and other elites, I mean the cream of our society. So why can’t they demand for high standard after all they have the power to close it down if the place can’t change. Go to any Asian hotels or any other eating places in town the standards are far much better, why?
May be I am wrong …or… may be since the shilling lost its value we have also lost ours too.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

10.25 I'm never going back there!

Aii those were cows I hope. Donkey meat I'd try. not even without knowing but knowingly. I saw some university guys eating it on telly juzi. It looked yummy. Who knows maybe when you buy mince it's not exactly beef mince?


Wanjiku Unlimited said...

And 10.25 hehehe. You're not very anonymous. I think i know who you are Lol.

Anonymous said...

Shiko...i see your guess is not bad…just keep it secret or else those suffering from WSS will be on may back. I hope Ume pona from the syndrome.
Hehehe you don’t mind eating donkey meat?...anyway I agree with you, even a pastoralist will never know when minced.
By the way those university guys were enjoying it....i can tell.