Mombasa: 40 Years Later

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I decided to visited Mombasa almost 40 years after my mom did. To experience the harbour city she set foot in and to check out what had changed during a time periode of almost 40 years.

When my mom first visited Mombasa, Kenya the year was 1980. She was 17 and had set out into the world on a cargo ship, where she worked for pay and experiencing the world while doing so. She walked the streets of Mombasa as they docked the harbour there. Considering my mom's journey, Mombasa has always been a destination in the front of my mind and in 2019 - almost 40 years later - I finally fulfilled that milestone as I set foot in this beautiful coastal city.

Below I've listed some of the places in Mombasa I found worth mentioning as part of a visit to Kenya's second largest city.

Mombasa Tusks (Pembe Za Ndovu)

Mombasa Tusks on Moi Avenue, Mombasa, Kenya
The very first thing I noticed as I entered Mombasa was the enormous aluminium elephant tusks crossing Moi Avenue also locally known as Pembe Za Ndovu. The tusks were commissioned in the commemoration of a visit to Mombasa by Queen Elizabeth in 1952. Since then they have remained the same in their original state. And today they are still considered the main landmark of Mombasa.

Visiting Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya
The impressive Fort Jesus was built between 1593 and 1596 by the order of King Philip I of Portugal as a means to protect the old harbour of Mombasa. The entrance fee to the fort is (as of 2019) 1200 ksh. We chose to just watch the outside walls as the stroll around was free. Fort Jesus is also a good place to grab a souvenir.

Walking along Mombasa Old Harbour

Cargo ship at Mombasa Old Harbour
Mombasa Old Harbour is not the main industrial harbour anymore, but there are still fishermen and local cargo ships entering the harbour. From Fort Jesus you can walk along the coast of Mombasa Island and enjoy the salty air as you watch the local ships sail in.

Eating Lunch at Forodhani

View over Mombasa Old Harbour from Forodhani restaurant in Mombasa, Kenya
I'm guessing by now you've built up quite the lunch appetite (I know we had). At Forodhani restaurant you'll not only get amazing local Kenyan food, you'll also be enjoying it with an impeccable sea front view over Mombasa Old Harbour. A true lunch paradise - where I called my mom back home and let her know, that I was just enjoying a meal at the harbour almost 40 years since she had probably had lunch somewhere around here.

Stroll Through Mombasa Old Town

Streets of Mombasa Old Town, Kenya
The Mombasa Old Town area was definitely around in 1980 (and waaaay before that as well). Mombasa is the oldest town in Kenya and the old town area hasn't changed for decades. The area is one of the poorest in Mombasa and it shows. A walk through here is still an absolute must. On the way there from Forodhani we stumbled upon a few antique/souvenirs shops as well.

Driving a Tuk Tuk in Mombasa

Tuk tuks are mostly famous for being everywhere in South East Asia and truth be told you won't see many of them throughout Kenya, but in Mombasa they are quite common and a handy way to get around the city. I'd recommend grabbing one to go to the next place on the list.

Buying Souvenirs at Akamba Handicraft Industry

Trying out wood-carving at Akamba Handicraft Industry in Mombasa, Kenya
Located a bit outside the city centre towards Moi International Airport you'll find Akamba Handicraft Industry. And let me tell you this now; Akamba Handicraft Industry is the best place to buy wood-carved Kenyan souvenirs. Besides the enormous store you can head out back to watch the workers hand-carving the different figures. A genuine experience, which has been around Mombasa since 1963. My mom brought home a woodcraving (probably carved here) in 1980 and so did I in 2019, they now pride my parents wall together at their house.

Walking at Nyali Beach

Nyali Beach in Mombasa, Kenya
The most touristic beach in Mombasa is on the south side of the city at Diani Beach. If you move north however you'll find the more local Nyali Beach, which is quite stunning as well. Locals are usually out for a run or a swim here. But you won't stumble upon maybe foreigners.

Shopping at Nyali City Mall

Kenya National Shirt
Further north you can have dinner at Nyali City Mall. This is also where I found the original Kenyan national soccer jersey, which I did not see anywhere else throughout my Kenya trip. A great souvenir to bring home from your visit to Mombasa.

Talking to the Locals

Local boy and me at Mombasa Tusks, Kenya
Lastly I'll urge you to get in contact with the locals of Mombasa. As there aren't many tourists around, you'll not meet many scammers or untrustworthy people (though you'll meet a few for sure). It's a perfect place to observe the Kenyans daily life and to experience the city culture of this East African nation.

All in all not much has changed in Mombasa during the past 40 years. But somehow that's not a disadvantage, since many of the other main attractions in Kenya has been overrun by tourist and tour companies. Mombasa has kept it's personality and that makes a trip here so much more worth it.

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