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Mombasa

The Kenyan coast is known for its dazzling palm-fringed white beaches, secluded coves, fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling. The coral reefs teem with brightly coloured fish and you can see Dolphins and Sea Turtles. The tropical climate and warm Indian Ocean waters are major attractions for tourists. Mombasa is the main centre on the coast with its interesting Old Town and fascinating heritage, but there are also a number of smaller towns and pockets of cultural interest along the coast. Mombasa City, on the island of Mombasa, is the second largest city in Kenya. It is the major port in East Africa and as such has always had strategic importance. In KiSwahili it is called “Kisiwa Cha Mvita” which means “Island of War” due to its many changes in ownership. The history of the city is a mixture of African Bantu, Persian, Arab, Portuguese and British, each leaving behind remnants of their culture, which over time have been entwined and enriched to become the Swahili culture as we see it today. The city has a population of 1,539,370, and is located on Mombasa Island, which is separated from the mainland by two creeks: Tudor Creek and Kilindini Harbour. The island is connected to the mainland to the northcoast by the Nyali Bridge, to the southcoast by the Likoni Ferry and to the west by the Makupa Causeway, alongside which runs the Kenya-Uganda Railway. The port serves both Kenya and countries of the interior, linking them to the Ocean. The city is served by Moi International Airport located in the northwest mainland suburb of Chaani, northwest of Changamwe area. Traditional dress for the Swahili women is a brightly coloured, printed cotton sheet called a kanga, which may have inspirational slogans printed on it. Muslim women wear a covering known as a bui bui, that is traditionally black, along with a head covering called a hijaab, and sometimes wear a veil called a nikab. Men wear a type of sarong, which is coloured in bright bands, called a kikoi. The highlights of Mombasa include a visit to the following; Mombasa Old Town “Old Town” is the part of Mombasa that is reminiscent of the days when the Arabs exerted a heavy influence on the town and its culture, and especially in the architecture and language (Kiswahili has a lot of phrases derived from various Arabic dialects). It is well known for its ancient buildings, extravagant art designs and curio shops that sell antique and popular Kenyan souvenirs. Old Town is best seen when explored by foot with an experienced guide, as the streets are too narrow to accommodate a large number of vehicles. The town’s inhabitants are mostly of Arab origin who’s forefathers once roamed the same streets of the town. Fort Jesus is located just a few steps away from where the town “starts”, thus a complete tour of “Old Town” can be done in a single day. Gedi Ruins On the North coast of Mombasa towards the town of Malindi lays one the most pre-historic ruins found in Mombasa, called the Gedi Ruins. Gedi was a small town built entirely from rocks and stones, which was inhabited by a few thousand Swahili people and ruled by a very rich Sultan. These ruins date back from the 15th century, and through careful preservation most of the original foundations can still be seen today. A well-informed and educated guide gives a tour of the ruins. The ruins are designated as a National Museum by law, and their preservation are a direct reflection of the commitment of the Government to uphold the country’s cultural and historical background. Fort Jesus Fort Jesus is Mombasa’s most popular tourist attraction. The fort, located along the coastline near the Old Town, is a monumental piece of architecture that was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. The fort has a museum that displays various artifacts from the era where Mombasa served as a transit point for the slave trade and commodities, and which enjoyed regular visits by seafarers and the like. Its interior comprises of torture rooms and prison cells where slaves were kept in captivity before being traded. Weapons such as canons, which were used to defend the fort from invading foreigners as well as rioting locals, can be seen both inside and outside of the fort. The fort opens its gates for viewing in the morning and closes at dusk. Hindu Temple The Hindu temple is a one of the many symbols of Mombasa’s cultural diversity. The temple is a popular tourist spot and a tour can be taken inside the temple, with a historical background of the temple given by one of the temple gurus. Extravagant idols and stone carvings of the various religious beliefs are displayed within the temple and on its walls. It is located near the Railway Station just outside the perimeter of the downtown area. Mamba Village Mamba Village, which is situated in Nyali, is East Africa’s largest crocodile farm. A tour of the farm starts with a movie on the life cycle and behaviour of crocodiles, followed by a comprehensive tour of the rest of farm, and ends with the highlight of the day: a spectacular scene of blood-thirsty crocodiles fighting for food during feeding time. Excellent cuisine is available at the Mamba Restaurant, and the house specialty is superbly grilled crocodile meat. Souvenirs of your visit can be bought at the Mamba Souvenir shop located within the village. Haller Park The Haller Park (formerly Bamburi Nature Trail) is the largest animal sanctuary in Mombasa. Located in Bamburi next to the Cement Factory, the park boasts an enormous variety of animals, reptiles, insects and botanical gardens. Walking along the trail is the ideal way to look at the various animals, and on many occasions holding or feeding a reptile such as a snake is allowed under close supervision of a guide. Educational videos are also shown, with emphasis on the the history and continuous improvement of the trail. It was previously a barren piece of land that had been stripped of its resources through limestone mining, and was redeveloped through reforestation and conservation efforts, and is now a habitat for a large number of flora and fauna species. Mombasa Tusks The Mombasa “Tusks” are symbolic representations of entrance into the heart of the town. The tusks were built to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the town in 1952, as they lay directly on the path from the port to the town. Ivory was considered to be an exquisite commodity during the time, and in essence the tusks were meant to embrace the Queen and the British Empire into the town and within its social structure. Coincidentally the tusks also spell the letter “M” for Mombasa. Bombolulu Workshops The Bombolulu workshops are located along the north coast of Mombasa along the Mombasa-Malindi road. Founded in 1969, these workshops are a project of the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK). It is a major tourist attraction, which consists of a cultural center with 8 traditional homesteads. The center also runs a traditional restaurant and entertains guests with traditional dances throughout the day. The center employs disabled craftsmen/women, who produce jewelry, hand-printed textiles, wood carvings and leather crafts. The products are sold in a large showroom and exported to 20 countries. Bombolulu workshops have grown to be one of the biggest rehabilitation centers in Kenya and have built a reputation as one of Kenya’s most reliable exporters. Some of the hotels and resorts available in Mombasa include • Serena beach resort • Sarova whitesands • Castle hotel – On the island • Royal court hotel – on the Island • Tamarind village • Best Western on Nyali bridge • Severin Sea Lodge • Bamburi beach hotel • Nyali Sun Africa resort • Neptune hotel Mombasa • Pride inn Resort • Reef hotel • Voyager beach resort