Mombasa is Kenya’s second largest city and the commercial cum industrial hub, with a diverse cultural history that dates back to about 1593, when the Portuguese built Fort Jesus. It became known as the “Island of War” following battles between the Portuguese and Omani Arabs, who later took control of the city until 1895, when the British took over.
The coastal city offers an interesting blend of cultural diversity steeped in its rich historical background. It is Kenya’s top tourists’ destination and an idyllic vacation spot boasting one of Africa’s best white sandy beaches, among several others. A selection of beachfront hotels and lodgings line its shores, while the warm waters of the Indian Ocean offer a variety of activities, such as scuba diving, sailing, and deep-sea fishing.
Mombasa is an island, divided into north and south coast. The beaches are on the mainland of these coasts. The distinction between the north and south coasts can be reduced to the difference in the level of development. The northern coast is more developed offering much wider choices of things to do, the south coast is more laid back. In any case, if you are in Mombasa for any reason, ensure your itinerary include a visit to Fort Jesus. It is the city’s biggest tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Designed by Cairati, the fort’s thick coral walls still define the imposing edifice though it is now partially ruined. It was originally a Portuguese military base; it now houses a museum, many battlements and ruined buildings including the Omani house. There is also the Passage of Arches which gives access to the sea. Be sure to also visit the Mombasa Marine National Parks and try out diving and snorkeling which are the popular activities there. Visit the beaches of Nyali, Bamburi, and Shanzu, as well as the Old Town, but remember, a visit to Mombasa is incomplete without a visit to the Elephant tusks which write the letter \'M\'. It was set up in 1952 to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the city.
Exploring Mombasa without a taste of the food means your visit is incomplete. Although there are international restaurants offering Indian, Middles Eastern and other foreign dishes, feasting on local dishes is something you must do. The Mombasa staple is boiled cornmeal, locally called ugali, made from cornmeal that is added to boiling water and heated until it turns into a dense block of cornmeal paste. It is enjoyed along with a small amount of cooked vegetables or sauce/stew. There is also Githeri, a dish consisting of boiled beans, corn kernels mixed in with some little vegetables. Wali wa Nazi (coconut rice), sukuma wiki (known as collard greens or a form of kale in English) and Nyama Choma (Roasted Meat) are some of Mombasa’s notable food. Mnazi, a palm wine made from the fermented sap of palm leaves is a popular local drink in the city. Though bitter and sour, mnazi leaves an almost sickly sweet residue in your mouth.