A Taste of K1’s Flea Market Sundays

The K1 Klub House has been a firm fixture of Nairobi’s nightlife scene for many years now. With its low prices, basic makuti-style structure and sports bar/club blend, it filled a large gap in the market when it first opened in 1985.

The model has since been replicated, but K1 has done well in recent years to stay relevant, largely through hosting events and staying open late seven days a week. Their ‘Jazz Nite’ Tuesdays are especially popular – few places in the city draw similar-sized crowds that early on in the week. For well over a year now, K1 has also hosted a flea market on Sundays, which I had often seen advertised on Instagram. After many weeks of putting it off, I finally got round to exploring the market last weekend.

For those who aren’t familiar with the K1 Klub House, it’s on the corner of Chiromo Lane and Ojijo Road. I’ve always struggled to navigate Parklands, but it’s hard to miss the sign with K1’s trademark smiling sun logo.

Having wandered round a few flea markets in London, I was expecting K1 to offer a similar variety of second-hand clothes, furniture and antiques. I had assumed that the name had stemmed from an abundance of those pesky little insects in old items of clothing sold at markets, but the origin of the term is actually still disputed.

The most cited reference, it seems, is the article ‘What is a Flea Market’, by Albert LaFarge in 1998. LaFarge suggested that the name is a translation of the French marché aux puces – literally ‘market of the fleas’ – which was established in Paris in about 1860, after Napoleon III demolished the homes and alleys of dealers of second-hand goods. The market was named so because fleas infested the upholstery of old furniture brought out for sale.

According to another theory, the term originated from the Fly Market in 18th century New York. The land on which the market stood was originally a salt marsh with a brook, and its name stemmed from the Dutch word vlaie, meaning swamp.

Whether the origin relates to an infestation of fleas or not, there were certainly no fleas on the items for sale at the K1 market last Sunday. In fact, most of the goods were new, so it’s not really a traditional flea market. Instead we found stalls selling all sorts of jewellery, woven baskets, Kitenge clothing, lanterns and candle holders, natural beauty products, preserves, paintings, and wooden furniture.

The market was also very attractively laid out. The furniture and the paintings were spread out on crates and hay bales by large posters and murals at the entrance. We then filtered into an avenue with long wooden tables, Kitenge bunting and rows of colourful umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. The stalls continued round the back of the main building, where there was a fashion section, and a ‘Kiddy Zone’ with a bouncy castle and various other children’s activities.

There was plenty more for us to do once we had exhausted the market, too. The all day Sunday brunch menu offers some unique breakfast dishes, like waffles with chicken wings, in addition to more traditional Kenyan street food. We opted for a generous portion of chicken choma, and the mahamri with mbaazi.

The Sunday cocktail happy hour starts at 10am, and the daily happy hour runs from 4-7pm, about the same time as the live band performance. And then, of course, there are the usual attractions of the Klub House: the downstairs Paradise Bar, the upstairs Heaven Bar with its pool and foozball tables, the Pitcher and Butch Pub, and Soccer City (where I intend to watch most of my football from now on).

So if you haven’t made any plans today, and fancy getting out of the house, head over to the K1 Flea Market.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation