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About Mombasa

HISTORY OF MOMBASA
Mombasa’s history dates back to the 16th century and it has been ruled by the Portuguese, Arabs and British-which have all influenced the town’s culture and the attractions that still exist including historical ruins such as Fort Jesus and the Old Town.
Mombasa is one of the oldest settlements in East Africa. It used to be a trading town, an important area for the trade in spices, gold and ivory, for centuries. The town has existed for over 700 years and some proof exists, there are writings of Arab, Egyptian and Roman explorers mentioning Arab settlements in this part of the world.

In 1498, Vasco da Gama, the famous Portuguese explorer visited Mombasa and was denied entry into the port. Da Gama then made his way to Malindi, receiving a great reception. Two years later, the town was sacked by the Portuguese.

In 1502, the town became independent from Kilwa Kisiwani (a community located today in Tanzania). It was named Kisiwa Cha Mvita or simply Mvita (in Kiswahili) or Manbasa (in Arabic).

In 1505, the Portuguese attacked the town; the combat took the lives of thousands of Mombasa defenders and Portuguese aggressors. Portugal attacked the city again in 1528 and twice more in the 1580s.

In the late 15th century, a fleet of 14 ships sailed into the harbor, starting a massive fire. After initially resisting the Portuguese invasion, the citizens were forced to give in the city, after that the Zimba, a warrior people from the Zambezi Valley, massacred the population.

Portuguese built Fort Jesus, which was finished in 1593. Mombasa became the most important African port of Portugal, the port served mainly for slave trades, spices and coffee exchanges. The city officially became a Portuguese colony in 1638.

Mombasa was a British protectorate from 9 February 1824 to 25 July 1826. In the late 19th century, slave labour and ivory caravans became the major source of economic prosperity. British influence grew in Mombasa and by 25 May 1887, its administration was relinquished to the British East Africa Association. The Fort Jesus was turned into a prison until 1958. Mombasa became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate, the area of East Africa controlled by the British.
Fort Jesus remains the biggest remnant of Mombasa’s history when it was dominated by the Portuguese. The fort structure dates back to the days of ancient battles among seafarers ad slave trade, and a small museum features a variety of relics from the era. Fort Jesus still contains cells where the slaves were held as well as various artifacts from that era can be seen in the museum at the Fort. There also is a town bell located in Nyali just as you exit the Nyali Bridge. The bell was rung to inform the locals to hide from the slave capturers who were fast approaching.  A walk through the narrow winding streets of Old Town can yield some fascinating insights into the traditional Swahili culture, and clearly illustrate the Muslim influence on the town and its inhabitants.

                

Mombasa’s history dates back to the 16th century, and it has been ruled by the Portuguese, Arabs and British-which have all influenced the town’s culture and the attractions that still exist including historical ruins such as Fort Jesus and the Old Town.
Fort Jesus remains the biggest remnant of Mombasa’s history when it was dominated by the Portuguese. The fort structure harkens back to the days of ancient battles among seafarers, and a small museum features a variety of relics from the era. Remnants of slave trade can still be seen today. Along the Coast, there are numerous deserted relics that are a testament to the era. In the town, Fort Jesus still contains cells where the slaves were held, and various artifacts from that era in the museum at the Fort. In addition to the evidence in the Fort, there also is a town bell located in Nyali just as you exit the Nyali Bridge. The bell was rung to inform the locals to hide from the slave capturers who were fast approaching. A walk through the narrow winding streets of Old Town can also provide a sense of daily life several hundred years ago.

Old Town takes visitors back through time to illustrate facets of early Swahili culture, influenced by the presence of the Omani Arabs in the town. In tandem with Muslim-influenced architecture, one can find traces of the Indian and British colonial past. Many houses in the Old Town are modeled on ancient Swahili designs, of which a defining feature is the intricately carved designs on doors. The same designs can be found on furniture in upscale hotels in the North and South Coast. A walk through Old Town can yield some fascinating insights into the traditional Swahili culture, and clearly depict the Arab influence on the town and its inhabitants.

  Mombasa Old Town

Colonial buildings from the British era can be spotted throughout the city. The famous Mombasa Tusks are located right in the centre of Mombasa town – the two pairs of crossed tusks formed a ceremonial arch to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

There are several other government buildings that display distinctive colonial-era architecture around the Fort. Treasury Square is one such area – where old colonial buildings, the historic town hall, and a charming garden square, can all be found within walking distance.