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
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.
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.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mombasa old town (Kenya). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mombasa old town. Read more about this site.