Kirinyaga road juakali mechanics, 1989. Photo: Courtesy

Nairobi's Kirinyaga Road is known for many things. It is unofficially the spare parts district of Nairobi, attracting customers from all over the country. Below is a list of facts that I think are fascinating about this place that is dear to many and dreaded equally.

  1. In 1964, the then Attorney General, Mr. Charles Njonjo, tabled the Motor Vehicles Components and Accessories Bill in Parliament. It sought to outlaw open air garages, and have all spare part shops closed after six O’clock because Kirinyaga Road was spurring car theft in the city. The Bill among other absurd suggestions outlawed the modification of any spare parts without permission from the Superintendent of Police. The bill died after four months of debate.
  2. It was previously called Grogan Road East, named after Ewart Scott Grogan. Grogan was the first person in recorded history to walk the length of Africa (Cape Town to Cairo) between 1897-1900. He later moved to British East Africa (Kenya) after marrying Gertrude Watt. In Kenya, he invested heavily in real estate and served as Colonel in the colonial government during the Second World War.
  3. Natives refer to the road and its area as "girogoni, glocon, grokon, grogon".
  4. It was established after World War II. The war brought in diverse teams including army generals, soldiers, carrier corps, armed scouts, cooks, personal servants, frontline potters, dressers, ward orderlies, interpreters and mechanics. When the war ended in 1945, some foreign soldiers were rewarded by the colonial government with parcels of land in Karen while the Carrier Corps were allocated houses in the area that would later be known as ‘Kariakor’. The government did not let go of the mechanics that repaired vehicles during the War. It sent them to Grogan Road East, (Kirinyaga Road) to continue providing their service to the growing needs of the Nairobi settlement.
  5. Kalasingas were and are still a face of Kirinyaga road. Among the war support were Sikhs from India. They provided skilled labor specifically steel engineering during the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway. Sikhs immigration to Kenya placed them at a better position to capitalize on steel industry and one notable Sikh was Mr. Kala Singh. He reportedly arrived to Kenya in 1896 and later established a company called, "Munshiram Kalasingh & Co", with his close friend. The business was probably one of the first to be started in Nairobi selling steel bars and hardware. Kalasingh, which was easier to pronounce, was later corrupted by natives to "Kalasinga", representing Indians who wore tarban. Kalasingas contributed to the Kirinyaga road that we know today through provision of engineering resources that are otherwise needed by the Grogan mechanics. 

Today, spare and tyre shops line up both stretches of Kirinyaga Road with the outlaying open air field serving as garages. This is the place to go when you need theoretically any automobile spare part. Visit our shop Tyretec - Kirinyaga Road to grab a piece of Kenyas history.

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