In Summary
  • A man gets his head shaved in a crumbling roadside barbershop.
  • Sunburnt tourists in oversized hats wipe sweat from their brows as they peruse the spice market.
  • This is Mombasa.

A young girl in a pink hijab squeals with glee as she races her brother down the narrow streets of Old Town. Groups of men in thobes exchange stories while they walk to mosque. A man gets his head shaved in a crumbling roadside barbershop. Sunburnt tourists in oversized hats wipe sweat from their brows as they peruse the spice market.

This is Mombasa.

Earlier this month, I took the Madaraka Express train southbound with two objectives: to meet my colleagues at Nation’s Mombasa office, and to see the Indian Ocean.

Nairobians had told me of Mombasa - a land where the coconuts abound, the call to prayer surrounds, and the people speak a pure form of Swahili.

But no amount of tales could have prepared me for the magic of Mombasa.

Within ten minutes of my arrival, I knew there was much more to Kenya’s second-largest city than beaches and Fort Jesus.

Ali, a tuk-tuk driver. PHOTO| CARO ROLANDO

The first thing that caught my eye was the prominence of tuk-tuks. These feisty, three-wheeled vehicles can be found sharing the roads with matatus, cows, bicycles, and cars. In my opinion, they’re the best way to experience the city. Not only can they bypass most traffic jams (albeit through some questionable sidewalk manoeuvres), but their window-free structure permits passengers to experience sights, sounds and scents more authentically.

CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY

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