Eastleigh is a one of Nairobi’s biggest business hubs and a thriving commercial centre heaving with shopping malls and drawing investors from across Africa.
Here are 10 other things you need to know about the area:
1. The estate shares a name with Eastleigh, an English town near the city of Southampton. Nairobi’s Eastleigh got its name in the 1920s when the colonial British government amalgamated the city estates of ‘Nairobi East’ and ‘Egerton Estate’ into one. Somalis pronounce it ‘Islii”.
2. First Somalis arrived in Eastleigh even before it was called Eastleigh. According to anthropologist Neil Carrier, Somalis were some of the first people to come to Nairobi and began settling there in 1916. A Somali man called Farah Aden lived in Eastleigh and described it in writing in 1917.
3. It is has been nicknamed ‘Little Mogadishu’ by the media due to its predominant Somali population. In the 1990s, thousands of Somali refugees began to settle in Eastleigh, leading to the estate gaining the nickname of ‘Little Mogadishu’. Many people, however, reject that label, arguing that it portrays the estate as an outpost of Somalia and not as part of Kenya.
4. Somali traders in other Kenyan cities like Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret and elsewhere have established mini Eastleighs. A part of Eldoret is now nicknamed ‘Eastleigh’. Further afield, parts of Johannesburg, South Africa, show an Eastleigh influence brought by Somali and Oromo migrants who passed through Nairobi en route.
5. Eastleigh was once a predominantly Indian neighbourhood. Indians began to settle in the area in 1913, especially in the north of the estate around St Theresa’s Church and Section III to the south.
6. Despite the notion that Eastleigh is purely a Somali place, Kikuyu investment remains strong (especially in its apartment blocks); so much so that some Somalis say parts of the estate are more Little Kiambu than Little Mogadishu.
7. Away from Somalis, Eastleigh is also home to many Ethiopians and Eritreans.
8. Eastleigh is part of Kamukunji constituency, represented in the National Assembly by Yusuf Hassan Abdi, a former journalist.
9. There are more than 50 malls in Eastleigh where thousands of wholesale and retail traders sell clothing, electronics, fabric, etc.
10. There are many Ethiopian restaurants and businesses in the estate, especially around 10th Street, an area that might be labelled ‘Little Addis’ if one were so inclined.