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Kenya: Mombasa old town

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Mombasa old town > Kenya > Africa

[Visited: October 2019]

After visiting Fort Jesus, the landmark historic structure of Mombasa, it is time to explore the old town of this second largest city of Kenya. Mere metres from the impressive walls of the fort, I see old doors in a wall heavily affected by the tropical humidity, roots growing into its doorframe, but with the carved beauty of it still visible. Men sit on the sidewalk, talking in their phones. I continue walking down Mbarak Hinawy Road, with remarkable old buildings on both sides. Wooden balconies, heavily carved doors, one of the oldest hotels, and the early 16th century mosque with its tapering minaret: there are plenty of reasons to walk slowly and admire these beauties. There are souvenir shops here, too: this part of the old town looks polished, and probably is on the itinerary for cursory cruise-ship passengers

Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Rickshaw parked at a prominent building on Government Square in the old town of Mombasa

After a filling lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean, I continue walking and quickly reach Government Square, with several bigger buildings. From here, the streets of the old town of Mombasa change noticeably. Buildings here are in serious need of repairs, there is rubbish on the streets, slogans painted on the crumbling walls, there are no souvenirs shops but only local stores, and a fish market. Men sit on the sidewalk, talking to each other. Kids play on the street. Veiled women walk by, disappearing into the narrow side alleys. The buildings here do not look polished at all. The atmosphere changes, too: some young men shout at me, pretending I have to pay to take pictures of a building. I wonder around, peek into side streets and alleys, look up at buildings, see ruined houses, stray goats.

Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Minaret of a mosque in the the old town of Mombasa seen from below

It is only when I walk Ndia Kuu street towards the south, that I come back to the quieter parts of the old town. Instead of trying to impress me, shopkeepers now try to lure me in. I take other, small streets, discover more old mosques with lovely white minarets and windows, slowly decaying buildings, while dodging the rickshaws and motorbikes speeding through these narrow streets that were never meant to be driven by vehicles. Behind a wall, I see a large building with stained glass windows, the security guard lets me into the compound but I am not allowed to come close to the building. I have chats with people, reach busy streets, find quiet streets again, until I eventually end up on Digo Road, the big artery running on this part of Mombasa island and effectively marking the western border of its old town, where I also find the main market with fruits, vegetables, spices, and many more products.

Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Balconies of a house in the old town of Mombasa seen from below
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): House with balconies in the old town of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): One of the oldest mosques of the old town of Mombasa, its minaret gives Madhry mosque a Swahili look
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Tree growing into the doorframe with old wooden door
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Balconies house in the old town of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Rickshaw driving through one of the backstreets of the old town of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Richly decorated wooden door in a building in the old town of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Old Omani door in the old town of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Mosque for Indian immigrants in Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Cyclist closing a door in a street of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Street scene in the old town of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Hairdresser in building in the old town of Mombasa
Picture of Mombasa old town (Kenya): Door frame embellished by carbings in a building in Mombasa

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