I have so many versions of home, having moved so many times in Kenya and the UK, but my very first one was by the coast in Kenya, which is where my love for the ocean has stemmed from. I was born in the coastal city of Mombasa, literally in a hospital with a sea view!
Mombasa is a laid back island with swaying coconut trees, the balmy Indian ocean as a backdrop and white powder soft sandy beaches.
Here are some historical nuggets about this stunning isle.
Mombasa was first visited in 1331 by the Arab traveler Ibn Baṭṭūṭah and in 1498 by the renowned Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama. Because of Mombasa’s strategic position, it was continually fought over, passing among the Arabs, Persians, Portuguese, and Turks until 1840, when the sultan of Zanzibar finally gained control.
It was a well established important port for trade across the Indian Ocean due to its location and still is today!
The British administration took control in 1895 and it was the capital of the East Africa Protectorate until 1907. Mombasa became a municipality in 1928 and assumed council status in 1959.
The Old Town area with its narrow streets, old buildings, gorgeous doors and antique shops is a wonderful place to explore to see the influences of the various residents, such as Asians, Arabic and European. There are some great cafes and coffee shops where you can take a break too.
It is also where you can find the site of Fort Jesus, a gorgeous fortress built between 1593 and 1596 by the Portuguese and which is now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the perfect spot for history enthusiasts as it has so many artefacts and remains to see such as cannons, a skeleton and it has the most amazing views of Mombasa.
When you drive through town, you will come across the famous ‘Tusks.’
These were built to commemorate the visit of Princess Margaret in 1956, back when Kenya was part of the British Empire. They still stand tall on Moi Avenue today.
You can find Kenya’s only floating restaurant, Moorings, in Mombasa too! Yes a floating restaurant which is just stunning and a great place to spend a lazy afternoon.
A sad aspect of the history of Mombasa is that it served as one of the prime ports for the slave trade. This thrived for a long time and slowly came to an end midway through the 19th century. You can still see remnants of the trade throughout the city in the form of shackles. There’s also a bell that remains standing at the end of the bridge which was used to warn locals of passing slave ships.