Whoa! In Mombasa when it rains it pours! Like really! Had no idea! Good news is the sun comes out almost immediately after. And the humidity notwithstanding. With Devolution, Mombasa is now known as County 001 as it’s the Oldest city in Kenya. So County 001, here’s the scoop.
Mombasa has two sides to it, the North & South Coast. The North is quite commercialized while the South is relaxed and idyllic; perfect holiday destination but that’s a story for another day. North Coast has a very rich history aspect to it. It is the City where Vasco Da Gama, the first European to set foot in Kenya docked his ship. He was a Portuguese explorer who was the first to reach India by sea (via Mombasa) thereby enhancing the trade route between Europe & Asia. Later Arab merchants arrived mainly for trade where they also intermarried with the locals hence the distinctive look the Coast people have. The Omanis also had a lot of influence in the Coast region more reason why they are fluent in Swahili. The oldest ever bamboo tree is also found here.
Fort Jesus is one of the major historical landmarks that is now a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site, due to its well preserved construction design that projects a Portuguese military style building. Its history dates back to the Portuguese arrival who built the Fort to guard the Old Port of Mombasa which was a trade hub for spices, gold and ivory from invaders. Our tour of the Fort was conducted by a Mr. Peter Tooele, a very well informed tour guide on Mombasa’s history to date as well as shady on goings that happened in there. He is very knowledgeable and entertaining. There is a prison inside where the likes of Mekatilili were held after capture by the British. Apparently, as gory as it may sound, her head was chopped off – a common practice done on stubborn and smart people from back then to now to study their brain. Not sure if that’s real or a myth. They had very sophisticated weaponry that they use to attack their enemies as they approached the mainland from the ocean.
Mombasa’s Old Town has some rich history and hosts some very old buildings still occupied by residents. There is a haunted scene in the Movie Inception by Leonardo De Caprio that was screened in one of the houses (the green one). Mr. Tooele informed us that it’s a 2 minute scene. Hollywood!! Miles and miles of travel just for a 2 minute scene. Well I guess such locations make the movies look authentic; and if they were looking for some haunted location then old town has several. Pardon my observation but..its just some ghastly looking place. The old port of Mombasa is also located here as well as antique shops which i must admit have quite unique stuff.
Along Bamburi lays several hideaways including the famous Pirates beach among others; as you head to Malindi through Mtwapa, another very busy and somehow congested “twilight” town. First of, we have the Haller Park which is a nature and animal sanctuary that was rehabilitated from a mining quarry to an ecological hotspot that features the likes of this tortoise which is a 100+ years old. Feeding of crocodiles is also done at the park and as someone who has reptiles phobia, its just not an amusing sight. Then there’s the hippos – similarly not pleasant to look at.
Next up is the Moorings which is a floating restaurant whose ambience is to die for!! Its also famous for its fresh sea food; cant get over the samaki wa pweza meal sauteed with avocado and mushroom sauce. Ahhh! Some recipes are just out of this world. Yuls should be your next stop for dessert; that ice cream is still famous!
Mombasa was also a center for slave trade where they were exchanged for goods otherwise known as barter trade. You can learn more of these slave story as well as their rebellion by visiting the Ruins which are located at different areas all over Mombasa. We had a guided tour with a very minimal fee at the Jumba La Mtwana ruins where its history is shared. Its very picturesque with even skeleton remains of a dead whale (licensed) and to crown it all the tour ends up at the beach!! You could not get a better ending to a bittersweet story.
And now that you’re there how about a quad bike ride by the beach. Or some camel ride. Or better still just bask in the breezy ambiance, watching the ships sail & the fishermen do their thing. Mombasa raha!!
Nyali bridge connects North Coast island to the mainland with Nyali being an upmarket residential area with Malls, Cineplexs Shopping outlets and the likes. It’s considered posh as right after crossing it comes the congested section of Mombasa with the likes of Kongewea market in tow. And those tuks tuks.
By the way in case you were not aware, the two Ivory Tusks (mapembe) that mark Mombasa were put up in honor of Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II Sister who was on a State visit to Mombasa during the British Colonial rule but they were later commissioned as the sign of entry to Mombasa. According to Mr. Tooele, she (the Princess) was a very frequent visitor to the Omani Sultan back in the day. Very frequent. Well like I said Mombasa is very rich in history; if you know what i mean. And this man Mr. Toelle, find him!