Mombasa is a city in the coastal region of Kenya. Like any other city in the world, Mombasa is cosmopolitan but with more of the Mijikenda people. Mijikenda is not a tribe but a group of nine related ethnic groups. The group inhabits the area between the Umba River and the Sabaki River.
When somebody mentions the name Mombasa, it is more than just being in the central business district. The name covers a large area that can take you more than a whole week to move around. The place is very interesting with lots of things to do and see.
The area is lively all year round. Be it January and February when most tourist destinations are inactive, Mombasa remains active with everything happening normally. Below is how your trip is likely to look like, things to see and do.
People and Culture
Once you are on the coast, you will realize everything goes on slowly. This has grown into being part of the culture. We noticed this from how people were moving around and how they were being served in several places. Unlike other cities in the country where people are busy and quick, everything here is slow and smooth.
Temperatures are always high throughout the year. June, July, and early August are the only months when the temperatures are a bit low. Sweating is something common throughout the day and night. At night people sleep outside or with fans and air conditioners on. We could spot people wearing only light clothes and we had no choice but to follow suit.
Places to Visit
There are numerous places you can visit while in Mombasa. It can take you months to visit all the interesting places in and around the area. Having only a week, we had to select the best places.
We began at Pirates beach. It believed that if you have not been to pirates, then you haven’t been to Mombasa. The beach is usually full on and off-peak seasons. During the holiday it is worse, with people traveling from every part of the world to have fun. It is a good place for swimming and basking.
Fort Jesus is another place with a great history dating back to the colonial period. The building has been standing there since 1596 and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is fun getting around the fort with some tunnels up and down. There are no restrictions on how long you should be there and we only paid 16 US dollars for a whole day.
Tsavo National Park
Tsavo national park is two hours drive from the Mombasa CBD. This is a park with a unique history. The most interesting part of the park is “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo”. We saw where the railway gauge constructors were being attacked by lions from the park.
Under normal circumstances, lions do not feed on human flesh. This unique species of the lion were eating railway constructors. There is a beautiful restaurant built in that area where we stayed until the following day. There are other places we visited like crab shark in Watamu, and beaches in Malindi.
Types of Food in Mombasa
Since the city is in a coastal area, we expected nothing more than seafood. Fish is a common meal, but what varies is the type of fish. Some are sweet while others are not, however, this depends on an individual’s taste.
Pilau and Biryani
Pilau and biryani are signature meals on the coast. The two are either made from beef or chicken. When someone mentions pilau, your mind will wonder how it looks like. It is just rice and beef prepared using special ingredients like “pilau masala” and tomato paste.
If you happen to attend any Mombasa food festival, you expect either of the two. Most of these festivals involve the cooking techniques employed while preparing any of the two. People come from different ethnic groups and within Mombasa to compete.
The Mijikenda are still holding tight to their tradition. The nine ethnic groups speak different languages but some things like festivals are common. Chenda Chenda is one of the biggest annual festivals that bring together the Mijikenda.
The festival is a platform for showcasing the traditions of the community. Women dress in traditional attires called “shukas” and perform cultural dances. Apart from entertainment and bringing the community together, the Chenda Chenda festival passes the tradition to the younger generation.