Africa Leaders Magazine

MOMBASA, Kenya – Kenya’s Oldest City and Trade Capital

• MOMBASA, Kenya – Kenya’s Oldest City and Trade Capital - African leaders Magazine

Mombasa, located in southeastern Kenya on the Indian Ocean, is the second largest city in the country and the nation’s major seaport.  The city, which is located on an island separated from the mainland by Tudor Creek and Kilindini Harbor, had a population of 939,370 people according to a 2009 census.  The official language is Swahili and the city is populated mostly by the Muslim Swahili people.  The Swahili name for the city is Kisiwa Cha Mvita, which translates “island of war.” Mombasa is also an internationally famous tourist destination particularly for visitors from Europe.

According to their creation myths, Mombasa was founded by two rulers: Mwana Mkisi and Shehe Mvita.  More likely the city was founded by Arab traders who settled there as they did in other cities along the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa.  Those early Arab settlers intermarried with local people, creating the Muslim-dominated culture in the city.

Kenyan historians place the founding of Mombasa as around 900 A.D.  The town was prosperous enough to be described by the Arab geographer Al Idrisi, who mentioned it in his writings in 1151, and by the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, who visited it in 1331. During this period Mombasa emerged as an important trade center with links to Yemen, India, Persia, and China with spices, gold, and ivory as its chief exports.

In 1498 Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama became the first known European to reach Mombasa.  His visit awakened Portuguese interest in the city.  Two years later the Portuguese returned to sack the city.  The Portuguese finally captured Mombasa in 1593, building Fort Jesus to ensure their rule.  Mombasa became Portugal’s main trading center on the East African coast.

The city came under the rule of the Sultan of Oman in 1698.  In 1837 Mombasa was annexed by Sayyid Said, the Sultan of Zanzibar (Tanzania).  Zanzabari rule continued until 1898 when the British assumed control of the city.  Mombasa became the capital of British East Africa and the sea terminal for the Uganda Railway which was started in 1896.  The British introduced Indian laborers who constructed the railroad.  After its completion in 1900, they stayed and became a part of this increasingly multicultural, multiracial city.  Mombasa under the British sent cotton, cloves, and coffee to Europe and the Americas.

When Kenya became independent in December 1963, Mombasa had a population of 191,000. The city remains a major trading port.  It has also become a popular sports city.  In 2007 the Cross-Country World Championship was held there. It also has its own rugby and cricket teams and hosts the Safari Rally, a cross country motor car race.

Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The day you step foot in Mombasa, revisit this piece and make sure you see all these beautiful sceneries;

Kick Back on Nyali Beach

Mombasa gazes out onto the Indian Ocean, and as such, there are a number of beaches in the area that beckon visitors. Nyali is one of the best known and loved, connected to Mombasa Island by a large road bridge. The white sand beach rolls out into calm tropical waters and is overlooked by a range of gleaming hotels and spas – as well as areas where you can rent boats, learn to windsurf, or scuba dive over the vibrant coral reefs that hide just below the water’s surface.

Visit Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus was constructed at the end of the 16th century in order to guard Mombasa’s Old Port. In the time since, it has come under numerous different occupations – and even briefly acted as a prison during Kenya’s rule by the British Empire. Now, it stands as a striking monument to that turbulent history and remains one of the most well-preserved 16th-century Portuguese forts in the world. Tour the fort itself, learn about the local conservation operations and take in the coastal vistas.

Eat Seafood at Tamarind Mombasa Dhow

Seafood restaurants are dotted up and down the city’s central island, however, the Tamarind Dhow isn’t just a restaurant – it’s a boat. Arab dhow boats have been a common sight along Africa’s East Coast for centuries, but the Tamarind is unique, offering you the chance to munch on grilled lobster whilst floating on the sea. Enjoy a signature cocktail – or three – and take in live music aboard the 246ft (75m) wooden vessel.

Go Wildlife Spotting in the Shimba Hills Nature Reserve

East Africa’s coastal forests are brimming with wildlife and Shimba Hills is a shining example of this, just under two hours south of Mombasa by car. The park has the highest density of African elephants in Kenya – as well as being home to leopards, giraffes, hyenas, colobus monkeys and much more. Join a safari to see the animals prowling through the grasslands or opt for a night walk to spot nocturnal creatures on their evening escapades.

Feed Giraffes at Haller Park

Bird enthusiasts and animal lovers should head to Haller Park. It was founded in 1971 when Dr René Haller transformed abandoned limestone quarries into a thriving nature reserve. Today, it’s home to giraffes, cape buffaloes, zebras, waterbucks and hippos. In fact, the park gained worldwide fame in 2004 when 130-year-old tortoise Mzee adopted the orphaned hippo, Owen – and the video became an internet sensation. Feed the giraffes, peek at the sunbathing crocodiles and watch out for the monkeys.

Go Snorkelling in the Mombasa Marine National Park

The Mombasa Marine National Park is not only popular for windsurfing, it’s also a top spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. Head beneath the waves to explore the mangroves and coral reefs where you’re likely to spot stingrays, seahorses and even turtles. Don’t like getting your hair wet? Book a tour on a glass-bottomed boat to explore the underwater world – without having to tug on fins and a snorkelling mask.

Snap a Selfie Beside Mombasa’s Elephant Tusks

A trip to Mombasa is incomplete without a photo next to the famous Mombasa Elephant Tusks. Located in the city centre along Moi Avenue, the tusks were built in 1952 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s visit. The intersecting tusks, made from aluminium, form the letter M for Mombasa and mark the entrance to the heart of the city. From a distance, the tusks resemble ivory and are known as “Pembe Za Ndovu” in Swahili, translating as “elephant ivory”.

Whiz Around in a Go Kart

If you have children – or you’re a kid at heart – then go-karting is always a good idea. Located on Malindi Road, Mombasa Go-Kart offers a thrilling go-kart race course surrounded by tropical gardens. Hop behind the wheel and see if you can beat your relatives across the finish line. Top off the outing with a bounce on the trampoline, paintball tournament or a bowling game.

Sail to Wasini Island on a Dhow Boat

The tiny island of Wasini Island lies south of Mombasa. Excursions to the island from Mombasa by traditional dhow boat are very popular. En route, you’re likely to spot dolphins, plus there are opportunities to dive off the boat and snorkel in the surrounding coral reefs. Explore the Shimoni Caves – thought to have held slaves before their shipment to Arabia – and stop by Wasini Village for fresh seafood.

Spot Crocodiles at the Mamba Village Centre

Take advantage of the opportunity to see East Africa’s largest crocodile farm at Mamba Village Centre. Keep your eyes peeled for Big Daddy, one enormous croc that lives inside the compound with his two wives. Not only will you learn more about these fascinating reptiles, but you can also watch the crocodiles fight for food during feeding time – usually after 4pm. Swing by the restaurant afterwards, which serves up game meat such as crocodile, ostrich and zebra delights.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top