A Walking Tour of Mombasa

Mombasa has a few attractions, arguably the most historical of which is Fort Jesus. Since we had only budgeted a few days in Mombasa, we decided to get to know the city by starting there.

While walking in the direction of the Fort, we were stopped by a parade, and had to laugh. It seems like in more countries than not, we find some kind of a parade going on. In this case, it was a celebration of the Kenyan Labour Day, which was obviously accompanied by more pomp and ceremony than its Canadian equivalent.



En route to Fort Jesus, we were stopped by a Kenyan gentleman, who offered to give us a tour of the Fort and some of the surrounding Old Town. While there were some signs explaining things and directions posted intermittently along the streets to a self-guided walking tour, we decided to take him up on his offer, as he seemed friendly and informed.

Our first stop was Fort Jesus, naturally. Like many of the Forts in Africa, it was initially Portuguese, from 1593, and later taken over by the Omani Arabs. After the abolition of slavery, the Fort became a state prison in 1895, until it was taken over and turned into a museum in 1960.



It was a small but interesting Fort. There were some remaining walls of a chapel, a well, a mural from the 1600′s or so, and even a skeleton.


We even had the chance to walk down the tunnel that was used in the past to transport the slaves to the sea.


We enjoyed our time in the Fort, but like many of the historical attractions in this region of Africa, we found it rather small and over-priced for tourists (more than 8 times what a local would pay).

After the Fort, we headed out to see some of the architecture of the city, and feel a bit of its vibe.





After the Old Town, we went to the market, and conveniently past some of our guide’s friends’ stalls…



… Where we made a few poor purchasing decisions — a spiced coffee that smelled alright, but wasn’t instant like most of the rest of the coffee we’d experienced in Africa so far (and was eventually given away to a friend of a friend), and some macadamia nuts that tasted wonderfully, but we discovered later, were impossible to crack open… Yikes.

Our tour ended at the market. We ended up only seeing a handful of the sights listed on the wall signs we passed, so we found ourselves a bit disappointed by the quality of our walking tour. It didn’t help matters that our guide, who initially said he’d be happy with whatever amount we saw fit to tip him, was in the end displeased with our tip, which was already more than Earl wanted to give him in the first place. On the plus side, we at least did not get lost in the winding streets of the Old Town, and we certainly saw a lot of the “life” of the city (as much as one can see in a 2 1/2 hour tour).

After the market, we stopped for a bite of food, before continuing our exploration of the city. Here are a few more images of this busy, busy city. We loved some of the signs and business descriptions here!



Chicken and chips, or “kuku n’ chips” is a big deal in Kenya. Maybe not the national food, but pretty up there. Of course we partook! (Though let us warn you that contrary to their claims, this place does not have the best in the world).


The rest of our time in Mombasa was taken up in wandering through the city, taking it easy, and playing some cards in the park. It was a fun and busy city, that’s less about tourism than it is about going about its daily business. An interesting place to visit!

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