By Mwangi Muiruri
Those plying the busy Thika Road know that, as soon as they hit the populous Githurai 44 area, they have to quickly wind up their windows to avoid their belongings being pilfered by super quick fingers.
While the estate is famous among the low-income bracket, it has gained notoriety over the years for its high crime rate, starting right from its main terminus, which is on your way to the Kamiti Maximum Prison off Kamiti Road.
Newly constructed residential houses in Githurai 44.
This explains why plots in this hood close their gates from 11 pm. The high insecurity is attributed to the cheap brews sold openly in unlicensed pubs. Famous are two well-known chang’aa dens.
At the main termini, there is a vigilante group that charges to escort late comers to their homes. If you are late and refuse to pay them, they will mug you!
Githurai 44 Estate is also said to be home to most twilight girls plying Nairobi.
From the city centre, there are three matatu termini offering transport to the estate commonly as route 44. Two of the termini are situated at Tom Mboya Street.
Those who don’t mind loud music board the 14-seater manyangas opposite the Fire Station. Some of these matatus are fitted with high-tech systems complete with DVD players that play blue movies during late hours. To enjoy those services, the fare is slightly higher than the normal Sh50.
When it rains or there is a matatu strike or a heavy traffic jam along Thika Road, the fare shoots to as high as Sh150.
Old fashioned matatus
Near Odeon Cinema in downtown Nairobi is a terminus for old fashioned matatus where the fare is always lower. The mode of transport here is old buses and mini buses.
There are also old 14-seaters that do not possess the physical appeal to compete for passengers at the two ‘hip’ termini, hence they hassle for passengers down Ronald Ngara Street. Their fares are also lower.
A route 44 matatu. Most are fitted with high-tech systems complete with DVD players. [Photos: Martin Mukangu/Standard]
Life is cheap in the estate since traders source for fresh groceries from the nearby Ruiru and Kiambu markets. Creative traders make chapatis and sell them for as low as five shillings. Food in the most expensive hotel costs Sh50.
The origins of Githurai 44 estate is traced to the 1970s when landowners from Kiambu started selling off plots.
"We formed groups and contributed shares that led to subdivision of the land. There were those who had the power of foresight and knew commercial plots were far much better than retaining agricultural land. Most of them were civil servants," reveals Mzee Joram Ngige, a resident.
At that time, Sh40 could buy a quarter acre plot, equivalent to one share. Clever buyers acquired many shares and are today reaping the benefits.