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Adams Arcade

Adams Arcade was the first shopping complex of its kind in East and Central Africa build in the early 1950s.

It all began when Abdul Habib Adam sprang up from bed one day and began to draw a sketchy outline on a piece of paper. He saved up enough money to buy some land in the ‘colonial area’ of then colonial Kenya in order to build the shopping centre.

The initial drawings and designs were all done by him, but he faced trouble getting approval from the council as he wasn’t an architect. He managed to get an architect from South Africa to sign his designs and thus went on to get approval for building the centre. The first structure to appear on the site was the Total petrol station in 1954. Mr.

Adam negotiated with the Total oil company and got them to sign a contract where they were to build a petrol station on a portion of the land he had bought. He then financed the first phase of the shopping centre which was completed in 1959.

The first phase comprised of nine shops and nine three-bedroom flats with balconies. The first tenants were a bakery, a post office, a Deacons shop, a Bata shop, a green grocer’s shop, a chemist, a Standard Chartered bank and a butchery.

The first tenants of the nine flats at the top floor were British Army soldiers and their wives. The shopping centre was named Adams Arcade.

The bakery, initially managed by an italian couple, was known as Bachelor’s Bakery. Mr. Adam later renamed it to Kencake Bakery and it was taken over by an asian tenant. Their pastries were very popular and pulled people from all over Kenya.

Marium Adam, Abdul Habib Adam’s wife, is quoted to have said that people came as far as from Nakuru to purchase the delicious treats. Even the youngest son of Mr. Adam’s youngest son (Mr. Adam’s grandchild) still has fond memories of the duck-shaped meringues he used to purchase from Kencake bakery.

In 1964, the Metropole Cinema opened at Adams Arcade. The grand opening ceremony for the cinema was presided over by the Nairobi Mayor of the time, Charles Rubia.

The post office is the only business that has remained unchanged since Adams Arcade first opened to the public.

Content Courtesy of Adams Arcade & Nairobi Fashion Hub

Oscar Alochi

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