Mombasa Travel Guide
Introduction to Mombasa
Known as Kenya’s second city, Mombasa has much to offer the intrepid traveler. Located along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast, it has long served as a major port dating back to the times of Arab traders. With this port seeing merchants from India, China, Portugal, Britain, and other nations over the years, this underrated city has a cultural flair that many other places in Africa do not.
Together with some of the best beaches in the country, this is a destination that you cannot afford to miss when traveling to Kenya.
Cultural Attractions in Mombasa
Fort Jesus is one of the most significant cultural sites that you will find in Mombasa. Built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century to preserve their strategic interests in the region, its cutting-edge design was built to resist cannon fire.
It functioned well in the beginning, but this fortress ultimately changed hands eight times over its life. Held at times by the Portuguese, the Arabs, and the British, these groups made their own additions to the fort when they possessed it, giving it an eclectic design that has garnered it a world heritage site designation from UNESCO.
Make Jumba la Mtwana the next stop on your tour of the Mombasa area. The ruins of this town are thought to have been a holding place for slaves in transit, although archaeologists have never been able to prove this conclusively.
Sitting along the Indian Ocean Coast, these ruins stand in stark contrast to the natural beauty surrounding it. Walking admist its crumbled masonry, you will find signs of life as it was many centuries ago.
Broken pieces of Oriental pottery grant credibility to the claim that the Arab traders exchanged goods with Chinese merchants, while the stark-looking remains of certain buildings suggest that they held African slaves prior to their shipment to destinations worldwide.
The Shri Cutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple is another culturally significant attraction in Mombasa. A Hindu temple decorated with intricately designed reliefs, you will be fascinated by their various depictions of this religion’s parables, including ones that illustrate the final judgement of sinners in rather graphic fashion.
Apart from this, this temple has the same exotic design elements that set them far apart from the churches that many westerners are used to at home.
Other Attractions in Mombasa
Mombasa’s long history as a multinational trading port has given it architecture that will surprise many visitors to this African city.
You will find most of these buildings within the Old Town of Mombasa, with a range of architectural influences that will even astound enthusiasts. Along its narrow cobblestone streets, you will find many bars, restaurants, and unique shops selling the best handicrafts that this area’s artisans have to offer.
When you have finished admiring this neighborhood’s many ornately carved doors, don’t forget to check out the spice market, as its many exotic smells will set your senses on fire with passion.
Those wanting to witness an environmental success story will want to make time in their schedule for Haller Park. In the 1950s, a cement quarry was built 12 kilometers north of Mombasa along the Indian Ocean coast.
The ecological destruction here was significant, leaving the water table brackish and the land barren. Unable to support plant life, it once had the appearance of a wasteland.
Rene Haller was given with the unenviable task of figuring out a way to restore this land. After searching fervently for a solution, he managed to find three different plants that would tolerate the harsh conditions at the site.
After the introduction of millipedes to help eat the plant matter that was building up but not decomposing, the soil conditions needed for the successful reintroduction of other species soon manifested. Today, Haller Park is a lush garden where visitors will enjoy spending time after sweating it out while exploring the urban cityscape of Mombasa.
Those wanting to take a dip in the ocean will want to head to Bamburi Beach. Lined with resorts along Mombasa’s stereotypically beautiful Indian Ocean coast, visitors will have no problem finding a place to soak up the sun that also has easy access to a variety of services.