The Historical Secrets of Mombasa’s Past

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Historical And Cultural Sites to Explore in Mombasa

Located on the Eastern coastline, bordering the Indian Ocean, Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya. Over the past years, the ownership of the city has varied, and many wars were fought in a bid to claim the ownership of the city. As a matter of fact, the name of the city, “Mombasa” translates to “The Island of War” in the Arabic language.

The city is a complete package for any kind of traveller, featuring a wide range of attractions that are steeped in the Kenyan heritage. The history of Mombasa is quite fascinating, with a mix of African, Arab, British, Persian and Portuguese influences. Let’s take a look at some of the historical and cultural sites to visit when in the city of Mombasa.

1. Mombasa Old Town

A look at this place and you’ll think it’s where the civilization of Mombasa started from. That’s not far from the truth. The Mombasa Old town is located on the southeast side of the city. It covers 180 acres of land consists of ancient buildings that define the city of Mombasa to a great extent.

The building architecture reflects the past era influenced by Arabic, African and European cultures featuring decorative balconies and narrow streets. There are several curio shops on the streets, where you’ll find a variety of arts and crafts, antiques and souvenirs.

Mombasa Old Town

Mombasa Old Town

2. Mombasa Tusks

Located in the heart of the city of Mombasa, on Moi Avenue, the Mombasa tusks marks the entrance to the city. It is the symbolic representation built to commemorate the historic visit of Queen Elizabeth to the town of Mombasa in 1952. Elephant tusks, in the African tradition, represent status, power, and royalty. The tusks were originally made of canvas extending over wooden frames but were later rebuilt with aluminium for long-term durability.

Mombasa Tusks

Mombasa Tusks

3. Fort Jesus

The Fort Jesus is a popular tourist site in Mombasa, and it’s a strong symbol of the presence of the Portuguese in the city during the time of slavery. The Portuguese erected the Fort Jesus in the 16th century and used the place for slave trade activities. Its interiors comprise of torture rooms and prison cells where slaves were tortured and kept in captivity before being sold.

Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus

4. Ngomongo Villages

Talk about one of the most captivating sites to visit in Mombasa and Ngomongo villages will definitely make the list. What’s so peculiar about this place? It is one place where tourists can learn about the different ethnic tribes of Kenya. The traditional huts have been recreated to suit tourist standards without losing the theme of the village.

In this place, tourists can watch or participate in traditional food preparation, sample the local drinks, and learn the traditional dances.

Ngomongo Villages

Ngomongo Villages, Image Source:

5. Bombolulu Workshop

This workshop was originally a project for the Association for the Physically Challenged in Kenya (APDK) but has turned to a major tourist attraction as a result of the numerous cultural displays that can be seen there. Some of the highlights of the Bombolulu Workshop include a Cultural Centre with 8 traditional homesteads, a traditional restaurant where guests are entertained with traditional dances throughout the day.

Wood carvings, hand-printed textiles, jewellery, and leather crafts produced by disabled people are also displayed in a large showroom for sales.

Bombolulu Workshop

Bombolulu Workshop, Image Source: PeopleTree.CO.UK

6. Gede Ruins

Located on Kenya’s coastal region, 94 km north of Mombasa, Gedi is a small town inhabited by the Swahili people and ruled by a wealthy Sultan about 400 years ago – between 13th to 17th centuries. It’s one of the most notable historic sites in Kenya, built from rocks and stones, some of which still stand till date. The ruins of Gede have been carefully preserved by the government to retain its history.

Gede Ruins

Gede Ruins

7. Akamba Handicrafts

Different skilled craftsmen and women work in the Akamba Handicrafts place to produce masks, ornaments, decorative carvings, human sculptures, and animal carvings. These carvings tell a lot of stories about the different cultures as well as history. Akamba Handicraft Coop is located off Port Reitz road in Changamwe area of Mombasa.

Akamba Handicrafts

Akamba Handicrafts, Image Source: TrendsMap.Com

8. Jumba la Mtwana

Situated in Kilifi district, about 15 km north of Mombasa, Jumba la Mtwana is a beautiful ancient ruins village, located close to the Mtwapa Creek. The site features archaeological relics and historical structures consisting of four mosques, tomb and four houses. Jumba la Mtwana means “Big House of Slaves” and it’s believed to be an important slave port in the prehistoric days.

Jumba la Mtwana

Jumba la Mtwana

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