Mombasa Old Town

Maisha marefu means “Cheers/Good health” in Swahili

We started our touristy day at the famous Mombasa Tusks that were built in 1952 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Mombasa town.  The steel tusks are shaped into a “M” for Mombasa, and are located at the entrance to the city.  We then hailed a tuk tuk, a three-wheel auto rickshaw, to take us to Old Town.  Riding a tuk tuk was a thrilling and fearful experience; we sped through traffic and weaved into the narrowest of spaces all for a few shillings!

We strolled around Old Town, taking in all the sights from the local vegetable and meat markets to the street side fruit peddlers.

We observed barefoot children playing football in the sand, passed by mountains of trash along the road, and ran into a few random goats hanging around the area.

Throughout the town were many beautifully carved wooden doors.  The intricate carvings were one of my favorite sights in Mombasa.

Along the streets were several stands selling freshly fried potato crisps.  They were sprinkled with chili powder and were a delicious snack!

After having lunch at Mital’s home with his family, we headed to the popular tourist destination of Fort Jesus.  The fort was built in 1593 by the Portuguese in order to solidify their dominance and to guard the Old Port of Mombasa.   Ironically, they lost their grip on the colony shortly thereafter and the Fort changed hands many times thereafter.

Fort Jesus Non-Resident Admission: 800 Ksh

The view of the Indian Ocean from the top of the fort was simply spectacular.

After leaving the fort, we headed over to East Africa’s largest crocodile farm, Mamba Village (mamba means “crocodile” in Swahili).  There were pits full crocodiles all piled on top of one another.  Big Daddy was the largest crocodile in the farm and was around 100 years old.  The tour guide said that Big Daddy had eaten five humans before being captured and sent to “prison” for life.

Mamba Village Non-Resident Admission to Crocodile Farm: 450 Ksh
Mamba Village Non-Resident Admission to Botanical Garden and Aquarium: 200 Ksh

We got to play with baby crocodiles and then… err we tried crocodile meat… it tasted just like chicken!

We also got to watch the crocodiles’ feeding time, which consisted of the handler dangling a piece of meat above the heads of the crocodiles.  We watched the crocodiles all climb over one another to reach up to snap up the meal, but then the handler would yank it away at the last second.  What a tease!  Hope that guy never ever falls into the water…

For dinner that evening, we had reservations aboard the beautiful Tamarind Dhow.  A dhows is an ancient sailing cargo carrier with a lanteen sail perfectly suited to catch the trade winds of the Indian Ocean.  The original dhow “Nawalilkher” was built in 1977 for trading, and then in 1986, the dhow was converted into a restaurant.

Tamarind Dhow dinner: approx 3,600 Ksh per person for just food ($50 equivalent)

As soon as we boarded, we were served the house cocktail “dawa”, which means medicine in Swahilli. It was a refreshing mixture of lime, honey, sugars, crushed ice, and vodka.  We all made a toast to Kenya “Maisha marefu!” as we literally sailed off into the sunset.  After it got dark, we looked back on the coast and noticed everything was pitch black along the horizon. As our local friends explained, there are timed rolling blackouts to conserve electricity, but lights would be back on by the time we got back to shore.

We watched the chef fire up the grill to cook whole lobsters and king prawns while a live band performed African classics, such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

After an amazing meal, we all danced and some of us even tried to audition for the band!

Return to main menu: “Karibu Kenya”


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