Last week, I mentioned how we took The Lunatic Express to Mombasa, a city on Kenya’s coast. Now I need to mention how much I LOVED Mombasa.
Mombasa is a major port city on the East African coast, and has been for centuries. As a result, traders and business people from East Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East have all settled in the area. The city is both ethnically and religiously diverse, and I really enjoyed people watching while we were in town. There’s a sizable population of Muslims, so many of the women we saw were covered head to toe, and even wore a buibui, with only their eyes peeking through the fabric. At Nyali Beach, just north of Mombasa, we drank cocktails on the beach while sitting next to a polygamous family with one dad, two moms and four young children. While going to dinner on Saturday night, we were invited to a wedding celebration at a Hindu temple. In addition to the great people watching, we enjoyed delicious swahili food and visited a diverse array of attractions. Here are some of the highlights:
The Portuguese built Fort Jesus in Mombasa in 1593 to protect the local Portuguese population. Because Mombasa was such a lucrative trading port, the Fort was probably necessary. Various entities won and lost the fort 9 times during a 250 year period. The Fort has also been used as a prison and as a barracks for soldiers, and it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One corner of Mombasa is known as “The Old Town” because it is, indeed, very, very old. The buildings are ancient, the streets are narrow, and you need a guide if you don’t want to get lost. We walked through the Old Town on our way to the market (see below).
We love food, ergo we love food markets. Mombasa has a great spice market, which we meandered through. I had to restrain my souvenir-loving husband from buying every spice in the place. I think we made it out with just coffee (unless he is hiding spices in his closet).
We figured a trip to Mombasa wasn’t complete without a visit to the beach. We sipped cocktails, walked along the sand, watched camels walking along the sand, and generally soaked up the sunny, warm weather before heading back to Nairobi.
It was a lovely weekend, and if the going gets tough in Nairobi, then I plan to retreat back to Mombasa. Maybe next time I’ll even get to ride one of the beach camels!