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Mombasa is a city on the coast of Kenya. It is the country’s second-largest city, after the capital Nairobi, with an estimated population of about 1.2 million people in 2016. Its metropolitan region is the second largest in the country and has a population of approximately two million people. Administratively, Mombasa is the capital of Mombasa County.

A regional cultural and economic hub, Mombasa has an extra-large port and an international airport, and is an important regional tourism centre. Located on the east coast of Kenya, in Mombasa County and the former Coast Province, Mombasa’s situation on the Indian Ocean made it a historical trading centre, and it has been controlled by many countries because of its strategic location.

DESCRIPTION

The city had a population of about 1.2 million per the 2016 census. It is located on Mombasa Island and sprawls to the surrounding mainlands. The island is separated from the mainland by two creeks: Tudor Creek and Kilindini Harbour. It is connected to the mainland to the north by the Nyali Bridge, to the south by the Likoni Ferry, and to the west by the Makupa Causeway, alongside which runs the Kenya-Uganda Railway. The port serves both Kenya and countries of the interior, linking them to the ocean. The city is served by Moi International Airport located in the northwest mainland suburb of Chaani.

Mombasa has a cosmopolitan population, with the Swahili people and Mijikenda predominant. Other communities include the Akamba and Taita Bantus as well as a significant population of Luo and Luhya peoples from Western Kenya. The major religions practised in the city are Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. Over the centuries, many immigrants and traders have settled in Mombasa, particularly from the Middle East, Somalia, and the Indian sub-continent, who came mainly as traders and skilled craftsmen.

LANGUAGE

Swahili is the official language of Kenya and is spoken by the majority of the inhabitants of Mombasa. Although English is also widely spoken, it is useful to know some common words and phrases to use whilst visiting Mombasa and rural areas along the coast.

CURRENCY

The unit of currency is the Kenyan shilling (KSh)

BRIEF HISTORY OF MOMBASA

Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya. Located on Kenya’s Eastern coastline bordering the Indian Ocean, it’s original Arabic name is Manbasa. In Kiswahili, it is called “Kisiwa Cha Mvita”, which means “Island of War” due to the many changes in its ownership.

The history of the city is a mixture of African, Persian, Arab, Portuguese and British influences which contributed to the rich cultures found in the city today. Mombasa, a great trading centre with several items such as glass, brass, copper, iron and rhino horn passing through the coast, was originally inhabited by the African Bantu people. The city was then visited by Jordanians in 6th century, Persians in the 9th and 10th century and thereafter Arabs. In this period the Arabs and Persians developed trading routes, commercial centers and contributed to a flowering of civilization reflected in the glorious architecture of their grand houses, monuments and mosques.

Over the centuries Mombasa struggled with numerous foreign invaders and hostility. The Portuguese, the ferocious Zimba tribe, and the Omanis have all laid claim to Mombasa since the 12th century.

By the 15th century, Mombasa was a thriving, sophisticated city with established trade routes to China, Persia, and India. Around this time the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama discovered the city while on a voyage around Africa to find the sea route to India. After a period of less than 5 years the Portuguese returned to attack the city. Five years later, Almeida, another Portuguese seafarer, plundered the port and 23 years later the Portuguese mounted another raid. The invaders then occupied Mombasa, building the impressive Fort Jesus and dominated the entrance to the old harbour, between 1593 and 1598.

The Arabs made several attempts to regain the town but, the Portuguese, supported mainly by supplies from their Indian colony, Goa, hung onto it for around 100 years. The occupiers were finally defeated in the siege of Fort Jesus which began in March 1696. Portuguese and Indian soldiers eventually relieved the Fort in September 1697, but they could not break the siege. The centuries of conflict earned Mombasa the name “the island of War”

Later the Arab’s triumphed scaling the walls of the fort. Intrigue and rivalry between competing Omani rulers led to a decline in trading along the coast and Mombasa fell under the rule of the Mazruis, who were finally overcome by the Omani leader, Bey Saidi Sultan Sayyid Said in 1822 (whose remains are still buried in Mombasa today). Two years later, the British warship HMS Leven arrived in Mombasa.

Answering to the appeals of the Mazruis, the commander, Captain Owen, agreed to declare the city a British protectorate, in return for a promise from the Mazruis to abolish slavery.

During this period, Mombasa prospered under the Sultan, underpinned largely by the slave trade. However he came under increasing pressure by the British to end the practice and in 1845, he was forced into a treaty that severely restricted this activity. In 1886, in an agreement between Britain and Germany, the territories of Kenya and Uganda were assigned to the British while Tanganyika (Tanzania) came under the rule of Germany. The Imperial British East Africa Company set up its headquarters in Mombasa in 1888. It was the springboard for the colonization of Kenya and the beginning of a British dominance in the country that was to last until independence in 1963.

By the late 1800s it became the base of exploration for British expeditions to Kenya’s interior. In 1988, the Imperial British East Africa Company set up headquarters in Mombasa. British rule of Mombasa became official in 1895 when they leased a stretch of the coast including the port city from the Sultan of Zanzibar. Officially this coastal strip still belonged to Zanzibar until ceded to a newly independent Kenya in 1963.

The British affirmed Mombasa’s importance as East Africa’s most vital port when they completed a railway in 1901 stretching from Mombasa to Uganda. Today, the city remains one of Africa’s major links to the rest of the world. Built on a 15 sq km island, Mombasa is surrounded by a natural harbor. The mainland coasts north and south of the city boast a proliferation of tourist resorts. Within the city itself, a traveler has numerous opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Remnants of slave trade can still be seen today around the town. Fort Jesus still contains cells where the slaves were held, and various artifacts from that era.

GEOGRAPHY

Being a coastal town, Mombasa is characterised by a flat topography. The town of Mombasa is centred on Mombasa Island, but extends to the mainland. The island is separated from the mainland by two creeks, Port Reitz in the south and Tudor Creek in the north.

CULTURE

A major cultural hub in Kenya and the African Great Lakes, Mombasa’s proximity to Zanzibar, Nairobi and the Indian subcontinent, as well as its large shipping and maritime industries gives it a diverse mosaic of cultures. Music is a main feature of Mombasa’s culture.

RELIGION

The majority of Mombasa’s population is Muslim.

The Catholics are pastorally served by the Metropolitan Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa.

ECONOMY

Mombasa is a major trade centre and home to Kenya’s only large seaport, the Kilindini Harbour. Kilindini is an old Swahili term meaning “deep”. The port is so-called because the channel is naturally very deep. Kilindini Harbor is an example of a natural geographic phenomenon called a ria, formed at the end of the last glacial period when the sea level rose and engulfed a river that was flowing from the mainland.

Mombasa is a centre of coastal tourism in Kenya. Mombasa Island itself is not a main attraction, although many people visit the Old Town and Fort Jesus. The Nyali, Bamburi, and Shanzu beaches are located north of the city. The Shelly, Tiwi, and Diani beaches are located south of Mombasa. Several luxury hotels exist on these beaches, while the less expensive hotels are located further away.

Mombasa’s northern shoreline is renowned for its vibrant 24-hour entertainment offers, including both family entertainment (water parks, cinemas, bowling, etc.), sports (watersports, mountain biking and gokarting), culinary offers (restaurants offering a wide range of specialties from Kenya, China, Japan, India, Italy, Germany and other countries) and nightlife (bars, pubs, clubs, discothèques, etc.).

Other local industries include an oil refinery with a capacity of 80,000 barrels a day, and a cement factory capable of producing over 1.1 million tons per year. The major intercontinental undersea telecom cables reach shore next to Mombasa, connecting the African Great Lakes to the rest of the world and supporting a fast-growing call centre business in the area.

At 44{22779bfbcd770ddb3e578c1a315760d5ceb5b0673b76bbf6cde56583853c2946}, the rate of youth unemployment in Mombasa is more than double the national average of 21{22779bfbcd770ddb3e578c1a315760d5ceb5b0673b76bbf6cde56583853c2946} (2016).

CLIMATE

Mombasa has a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen: As). The amount of rainfall essentially depends on the season. The rainiest months are April and May, while rainfall is minimal between January and February.

TRANSPORT

Air

Moi International Airport serves the city of Mombasa. It is located in Port Reitz area, also known locally as Chaani area on the mainland metropolitan area. Flights to Nairobi and other Kenyan, European and Middle Eastern destinations depart from the airport. Besides Mombasa and Nairobi is well connected by chartered flights operated via Wilson airport.

Train

Mombasa has a railway station. Kenya Railways operates overnight passenger trains from Mombasa to Nairobi, though the service is less extensive than it used to be.

Road

Driving in Mombasa is straightforward and the majority of the roads are tarmacked. Main roads include Jomo Kenyatta Avenue, Digo Road, Nyerere Road, Nkurumah Road, Moi Avenue, Mama Ngina Drive, Barack Obama Road, Nairobi Highway and Nyali Road.

Highways connect Mombasa to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam while northward road link to Malindi and Lamu, which also extends towards the border with Somalia.

Within Mombasa, most local people use matatus (mini-buses) which are extremely common in Kenya, to move around the city and its suburbs. The tuk-tuk—a motor vehicle with three wheels—is widely used as transport around the city and its suburbs. No more than three passengers may be carried. A boda-boda is originally a bicycle taxi. Especially in cities, the bicycles are more and more replaced by motorbikes.

Sea

Mombasa’s port is the largest in Kenya, with 19 deep water berths with two additional berths nearing completion and two oil terminals.[29] Rail connects the port to the interior. There is little or no scheduled passenger service. International cruise ships frequent the port.

Ferry

There is no bridge between Mombasa Island and south coast, instead the distance is served by ferries operated by the Kenya Ferry Service from Kilindini and Mtongwe to Likoni in the south coast of Mombasa. In 1994, a ferry serving Mtongwe route sank and 270 or more perished.

As a result of the major build-up of more luxurious hotels in South Coast and a lack of a direct bridge linking the South Coast to the North Coast, visiting tourists have the option of flying directly into the South Coast airstrip using the domestic airline, Air Kenya.