Mombasa Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Mombasa
Mombasa, with a population of over 650,000, is the second largest city on the coast of Kenya. The diverse population in Mombasa ranges from African to British, Omanis, Indian and Chinese. The main industry in Mombasa is tourism although commercial ships utilize the largest coastal port in East Africa.The narrow alleyways and historic Swahili houses of The Old Town are steeped in history and are the highlight of Mombasa for travelers. This modern cosmopolitan city also offers a cultural melting pot with Mosques, Hindu Temples and Christian churches found throughout.Mombasa is an island that is connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries. The coral reef runs along the coastline for 480 kilometers with white coral sand. Snorkeling, dolphin watching and deep-sea fishing are just a few of the activities available.
Built in 1593 by the Portugese, Fort Jesus is Mombasa's greatest tourist attraction. Designed by the Italian architect, Cairati, the structure represents an Italian fortress from the 16th C. Built in the shape of a man, the fort was given the name of Jesus as a clear religious reference. The fort changed hands nine times between 1631 and 1875 before finally resting in the hands of the British. The bastions were needed to shield the nearby Mombasa beach and carry the cannons that covered the approach from the sea. In the 17th C, the Sultan of Oman controlled Fort Jesus and adjustments were made such as raising the walls. The 18th C saw turrets added.Although partially ruined, Fort Jesus houses a museum built over the former barracks for the garrison. Exhibits include a vast collection of ceramics and pottery that reflect the various cultures that traded along the coast. Other displays include the Portugese frigate, Santo António de Tanná, which sank off Fort Jesus during a siege in 1698 and some anthropological evidence related to coastal tribes. Some relics from the ship were recovered and provide a glimpse of that period.Fort Jesus has many battlements and ruined buildings within the compound including Omani house, built in the late 18th C and housing Omani jewelry as well as displays on Swahili life. The Passage of Arches is a passage that was cut through the coral to give access to the sea.
The Old Town
The "Old Town" is reminiscent of the days when the Portuguese ruled Mombasa. Houses feature ornately carved doors and balconies, which are typical of coastal East African architecture. The town's inhabitants are mostly of Arab origin; this is evident through the influence on the culture - especially in the architecture and language. Leven Steps, near the waterfront, is the site of an ancient well. The Old Town is well known for its ancient buildings, lavish art designs and shops that sell antiques and Kenyan souvenirs. This area of Mombasa is worth exploring on foot and takes no more than one day to see all the sights.
The Mombasa Tusks were built to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the town in 1952, when she arrived in Mombasa for her Kenyan safari. They lay directly on the path from the port to the town. Ivory was considered an exquisite commodity during the time, and the tusks were meant to include the Queen and the British Empire in the town. The intersecting tusks also spell the letter "M" for Mombasa. The heart of the town is where most of the hospitals, banks, shops and markets are located.
Mandhry Mosque, the oldest mosque in Mombasa, was completed in 1570 and features a picturesque minaret. The Basheikh Mosque allegedly dates back to around 1300 but this is not confirmed. Memon Mosque is traditional, yet modern with lofty minarets. The historic Dawoodi Bohra Mosque, built in 1902, stands on the top of a cliff with a view of the old harbor. There is also a beautiful Baluchi mosque, founded in 1875.
Other Religious Buildings
The Lord Shiva Hindu Temple, near Jamhuri Park, has an interesting sculpture garden. This impressive building is topped with an awesome gold spire. There is also the Swaminarayan Temple, on Haile Selassie Road, with ornately painted doors and paintings from Hindu mythology. The Holy Ghost Roman Catholic Cathedral use to mark the center of the city and Mombasa Memorial Cathedral, which is Anglican, boasts a silver dome.
Mombasa Go-Kart offers karts with remote controlled speed for small children to drive at reduced speeds. Drivers will enjoy the 1500ft smooth concrete track. There are also off-road buggies and the opportunity to hire a Bobcat excavator to dig with. There is a family friendly restaurant with free computer games, a large garden with a playground and an area to watch the big screen for sporting events.