Mombasa Weekend

July 20, 2013 at 8:27 am 2 comments

photo (10)Mombasa is everything Nairobi is not. While Nairobi can feel like Any Big City, Mombasa has a strong sense of culture and place. While Nairobi’s streets empty after dark, Mombasa’s streets are packed with people eating street food, selling clothes, and living their lives. It has bustle.

We arrived on Friday afternoon, and immediately headed to the old town, that sits along the old port. Mombasa’s strategic position on the spice route saw the city trade hands between Portuguese, Arabic and British rulers numerous times during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Being Ramadan, many of the shops through the old town were empty, which gave the broken-toothed facades an extra layer of spookiness.

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After finding an open coffee shop, we sampled the Swahili coffee made with cardamon and served black (I liked it, Dean wasn’t convinced). We fratinised with the local cats a while (and there’s a whole other story about Swahili cats from a taxi driver friend, but that’s for anther day), before wandering down to Fort Jesus at sunset. It was too late to go in, but we were treated to a football match between some quite talented kids.

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fort jesus football

Ramadan also meant that ads like this were pasted up on closed shop walls. It reads,”Why not host friends for a Coke at your house during Ramadan?” What ever else you might have to say about this  multinational beverage company, you cant fault their dedication to localised marketing.


On Saturday, we headed to Fort Jesus again, this time to go inside. Built in the 16th Century by the Portuguese (the name is a bit of a giveaway), the fort was designed overlooking the water and the port, meaning the Portuguese had plenty of time to canon-ball any Johnny-Come-Lately’s who wanted a share of the Mombasa spoils.  The geometry of the building also means that anyone attempting to scale the walls would be quickly spotted. The combination of fig trees, a crumbling limestone prison and the sea breeze  reminded me a lot of my home town, Fremantle (Fort Jesus is actually built of coral, but the effect is the same).



We spent the last day at the beach, where the water was unbelievably warm, and the renowned beach boys (and girls) seemed to be on holiday elsewhere. While I love Nairobi, I also love knowing that this gem is only an hours flight away.


Entry filed under: Tourism.

#WhyObamaWillSkipKenya Sukari Tamu (Sweet Sugar)

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. katebellex  |  July 21, 2013 at 5:09 am

    Love the colours in these pics. So rich. And the sky is surreal. You didn’t pic at the beach??

    • 2. Jesse Dean  |  July 21, 2013 at 6:12 am

      Sadly not, we didn’t take our camera/phones with us because thefts are common along Mombasa beaches…


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Radio Nairobi is written (and photographed) by Jesse Dean, as she spends 12 months in Nairobi



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