Mombasa is the second
largest city in Kenya, lying on
- For the asteroid, see 1428
Mombasa. "Mvita" redirects here. Also see:
- "Island of War" redirects here. For the TV series,
see Island at War.
It has a major port
and an international airport
. The city is
the centre of the coastal tourism industry. The original Arabic
name is Manbasa
; in Swahili
it is called Kisiwa Cha Mvita
(or Mvita for short), which
means "Island of War", due to the many changes in its ownership.
is also the headquarters of Mombasa District which, like most other districts in Kenya, is named
after its chief town.
has a population of 727,842, as per the 1999-census, and is located
Island, which is separated from the mainland by two
creeks: Tudor Creek and Kilindini Harbour. The island 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
which runs the Uganda Railway.
The port serves both Kenya and countries of the interior, linking
them to the Ocean. The town is served by Moi
The town is mainly occupied by the Muslim
. Over the centuries,
there have been many immigrants and traders who settled in Mombasa,
particularly from Iran, the
Middle East, Somalia and the
Indian sub-continent, who came
mainly as traders and skilled craftsmen.
Even after four or
five generations, their descendants continue to contribute highly
to the economy of present day Mombasa and Kenya as a whole.
Traditional dress for the Swahili women is a brightly coloured,
sheet called a kanga
, which may have
inspirational slogans printed on it. Muslim women wear a covering
known as a bui bui
, that is traditionally black, along
with a head covering called a hijaab
, and sometimes wear a
veil called a nikab
. Men wear a type of sarong
, which is coloured in bright bands, called a
The founding of Mombasa is associated with two rulers: Mwana Mkisi
(female) and Shehe Mvita
. According to oral history and
medieval commentaries, Shehe Mvita superseded the dynasty of Mwana
Mkisi and established his own town on Mombasa Island. Shehe Mvita
is remembered as a Muslim of great learning and so is connected
more directly with the present ideals of Swahili culture that
people identify with Mombasa. The ancient history associated with
Shehe Mvita and the founding of an urban settlement on Mombasa
Island is still linked to present-day peoples living in Mombasa.
The Thenashara Taifa (or Twelve Nations) Swahili lineages recount
this ancient history today and are the keepers of local Swahili
traditions. Even though today Mombasa is a very heterogeneous
cultural mix, families associated with the Twelve Nations are still
considered the original inhabitants of the city.
Most of the early information on Mombasa comes from Portuguese chroniclers
writing in the 16th
century. The famous Moroccan scholar and traveller Ibn
Battuta did visit Mombasa in 1331 on his travels on the eastern
coast of Africa and made some mention of the city, although he only
stayed one night.
He noted that the people of Mombasa were
Shãfi'i Muslims, "a religious people, trustworthy and righteous.
Their mosques are made of wood, expertly built."
The exact founding date of the city is unknown, but it has a long
history. It must have been already a prosperous trading town in the
12th century, as the Arab geographer Al
mentions it in 1151. During the pre-modern period,
Mombasa was an important centre for the trade in spices
, and ivory
. Its trade links reached as far as India and China and oral
historians today can still recall this period of local
history. Throughout the early modern period, Mombasa
was a key node in the complex and far reaching Indian Ocean trading networks, its key exports then were ivory,
millet, sesamum and
In the late pre-colonial
period (late 19th century), it was the metropolis of a plantation
society, which became dependent on slave labour (sources contradict
whether the city was ever an important place for exporting slaves
) but ivory caravans remained a major source
of economic prosperity. Mombasa became the major port city of
pre-colonial Kenya in the Middle Ages and was used to trade with
other African port cities, Persia,
Arab traders, Yemen and even
India. 15th century Portuguese voyager Duarte Barbosa claimed, "[Mombasa] is a place
of great traffic and has a good harbour in which there are always
moored small craft of many kinds and also great ships, both of
which are bound from Sofala and others
which come from Cambay and Melinde and others which sail to the island of
The great Chinese fleet of Zheng He
supposed to have visited Mombasa around 1415.
Vasco da Gama
was the first known
European to visit Mombasa, receiving a chilly reception in 1498.
later, the town was sacked by the Portuguese. In 1502, the sultanate became independent from Kilwa
Kisiwani and was
renamed as Mvita (in Swahili) or
attacked the city again in 1528, and built Fort Jesus in 1593 in an attempt to colonise, from which time
it was governed by a Captain-major. In 1638, it formally
became a Portuguese colony (subordinated to Goa, as a
stronghold on the route to Portuguese India).
the town came under suzerainty of the Sultanate of Oman, but it became subordinate to Zanzibar, prompting regular local rebellions.
appointed three consecutive Governors (Wali in Arabic, Liwali
- 12 December 1698–December 1698: Imam Sa'if ibn Sultan
- December 1698–1728: Nasr ibn Abdallah al-Mazru'i
- 1728–12 March 1728: Shaykh Rumba
Next, Mombasa returned to Portuguese rule by captain-major Álvaro
Caetano de Melo Castro (12 March 1728–21 September 1729), then four
new Omani Liwali until 1746, when the last of them made it
independent again (disputed by Oman), as the first of its recorded
February 1824 to 25 July 1826, there was a British protectorate over
Mombasa, represented by Governors.
- 1746–1755: 'Ali ibn Uthman al-Mazru'i
- 1755–1773: Masud ibn Naisr al-Mazru'i
- 1773–1782: Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Mazru'i
- 1782–1811: Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Mazru'i (born 17–died
- 1812–1823: 'Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Mazru'i (died 1823)
- 1823–1826: Sulayman ibn 'Ali al-Mazru'i
Omani rule was restored
in 1826; seven liwalis
where appointed. On 24 June 1837, it
was nominally annexed by sultan of Zanzibar and Muscat Sayyid Said bin Sultan
with the assistance of Shaikh Isa bin
Tarif with his tribe Original Utub
Al Bin Ali . Isa bin Tarif, Chief of the Al bin Ali Al Utbi Tribe,
is a descendant of the Original Utub
who conquered Bahrain . Fort
Jesus in Mombasa was named after Shaikh Isa bin Tarif.
The name "Jesus
" in Arabic means "Isa", therefore it means the
Fort of Isa (Isa bin Tarif). The Al bin Ali
(the tribe of Isa bin Tarif) were a politically important group
that moved backwards and forwards between Qatar and Bahrain,
they were the original dominant group of Zubara area
On 25 May
1887, its administration was relinquished to the British East Africa Association (see
Kenya). The sultan formally presented the town in
1898 to the British.
It soon became the capital of the British East Africa
and is the sea terminal of the Uganda Railway
, which was started in 1896.
Many workers were brought in from British
to build the railway, and the city's fortunes revived. On
1 July 1895, it became part of Britain's Kenya protectorate
(the coastal strip
nominally under Zanzibari sovereignty
Mombasa was part of the state of Zanzibar until 12 December 1963
when it was ceded
to be incorporated into
the newly independent state of Kenya.
November 2002, a suicide car bomb exploded at the Israeli-owned beachfront Paradise Hotel, killing three
Israelis and ten Kenyans. About 20 minutes
earlier, an unsuccessful attempt was made to shoot down an Arkia Israel Airlines Boeing 757 chartered tourist plane taking off
from nearby Moi International Airport using surface-to-air missiles; nobody was
hurt on the plane, which landed safely in Tel Aviv.
The main suspect for both attacks is
(see Kenyan hotel bombing
Geography and climate
Being a coastal town, Mombasa is characterised by a flat
topography. The town of Mombasa is centered on Mombasa Island, but
extends to the mainland. The island is separated from mainland by two
creek, Port Reitz in south and Tudor Creek in north.
Mombasa has a warm, tropical
amount of rainfall depends essentially on season. The rainiest
months are April and May, while in January to February the rainfall
is a major trade centre and home to Kenya's only large seaport, the
Mombasa's North Beach
is an old Swahili term
that means "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
millions of years ago when the sea level rose and engulfed a river
that was flowing from the mainland.
Mombasa is the centre of coastal tourism in Kenya. Mombasa island itself
is not a main attraction, although many people visit Old Town and
Jesus. North of Mombasa Island are Nyali, Kenyatta, Bamburi, and Shanzu beaches.
the town, there are Shelly, Tiwi, and Diani
Several luxury hotels exist on these beaches, while
most of cheaper beach hotels are located farther away from the
Other local industries include an oil
and the Bamburi Cement
airport of the city is the Moi International Airport. Mombasa has a railway station and Kenya Railways runs overnight passenger
trains from Mombasa to Nairobi, though the service is less extensive than it used
to be. Highways connect Mombasa to capital Nairobi,
former Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam while northward road link to Malindi and Lamu.
Within Mombasa, most local people use Matatus
(minibuses) to move
between villages and Mombasa Island. Mombasa port is the largest in
Kenya but there is little or no scheduled passenger service.
International cruise ships frequent the port, thus giving Mombasa a
no bridge between Mombasa Island and south coast, instead the
distance is served by ferries from Kilindini
and Mtongwe to Likoni in south
Operating ferries are aged. In 1994, a ferry serving
Mtongwe route sank, leaving 270+ people perished.
Moonlit boats in Mombasa
Taarab music, which originates from Zanzibar, has a prominent local presence.
have become popular, especially
amongst the youth.
The Kenyan Premier League
currently has one football
from Mombasa, Bandari F.C.
, who play
at the Mombasa Municipal
. Another team, Coast Stars
has recently been relegated from the league. The only Mombasa-based
team to win the league is Feisal F.C.
the 1965 champions.
There are several cricket teams in Mombasa. One of them is Mombasa Sports Club
(MSC), whose ground
was given ODI
status in 2006.
MSC has also a rugby union
in the Kenya Cup
League, the premier rugby
competition in Kenya. Mvita XI men and MSC ladies represent Mombasa
in Kenyan field hockey leagues.
World Cross Country Championships
were held in Mombasa.
annually in Mombasa. The town also hosts the biennial classic
edition of Safari Rally
and annually a
Kenya National Rally Championship round.
: Considered the prime residential
area of Mombasa. The State House & Mombasa Golf Club are in
Kizingo. The Aga Khan Academy, Serani High School, Santokben
nursery school, Coast academy , Mombasa Primary school, Mama Ngina
high school, Serani Primary school are part of Kizingo.
: Part of Old Town with Swahili
architecture. Fort Jesus is in Baghani.Kuze
Part of Old Town with Swahili culture and architecture. Originally
flourishing with Swahili
currently becoming a more cosmopolitan neighbourhood.Makadara
: Part of Old Town consisting of a high
number of descendants of Baluchi
soldiers who settled within this area before it developed into a
town. The name is derived from the Arabic word Qadr-ur-Rahman
meaning fate of God.
: Primarily residential, home of cmc,
home of second biggest dry dock of Africa after the one in South
middle class residential area with homes and shops.
Outside Mombasa Island
Also considered a prime and up-market residential area, it is on
the mainland north of the island & is linked by the New Nyali
It has numerous beach front hotels in the
area known as the "North Coast". Nyali has two distinct sections -
the posh Old Nyali and the upcoming New Nyali. For many residents,
Nyali has now become a self-contained residential area, with two
, a multiplex cinema, shopping
malls, banks, schools and post offices. This often eliminates the
need for residents to cross the bridge and to go into the congested
Mombasa city center. Nyali is home for the Nyali Cinemax complex,
the Nyali Golf Club, and some of the most prestigious academic
institutions of the Coast Province, such as the Oshwal Academy (a
fully fledged primary and secondary school) and Tiny Tots
Kindergarten (Nyali's oldest and prominent educational institution
specialising in early childhood development and education).
is a lower class area connected to Mombasa Proper by a
It is south of Mombasa Island and made up of mostly
non-Swahili tribes. The ferry was the target of the Likoni Riots of
: is an outlying
township 10 minutes northwest of Mombasa Island, situated on the
Nairobi road. This fringe community lacks any effective
electricity, water or sewer systems, with a general lack of
infrastructure. Poverty, lack of sanitation, and unemployment
continue to be the greatest issues for the Mikindani Township,
which have ensured low health and safety standards for its
residents. Poor, lower class housing is widespread, ranging from
simple stone, two storey structures to mud and earth homes fitted
with corrugated iron roofs. Much of the community works outside of
the township, within Mombasa Island itself as there is a lack of
employment and industry. There are number of small health clinics,
shops, and a few public primary schools: Nazarene primary is one
school, which is known in particular as being staffed by a
revolving volunteer teacher base from Western, and predominately
English speaking nations. This small town that serves as a link
between the city and Moi International Airport. Magongo is also
home to the Akamba Handicraft Cooperative.
Mikindani [a surburban area: This
is an outlying township on the mainland along the Nairobi road.It
is built in the heavy industrial sections of Changamwe and mainly accommodate the working class who either
work in the industries, the town centre on the Island and the Port
at Kilindini harbor.The area is vast populated with people of
different walks of life, religion etc. transport and communication
is very profound with very many educational institutionss in the
area Kajembe Sec School
and different primary schools.
on the Mombasa Nairobi Highway which is first growing as a
surburban area.Changamwe: Industrial area which contains the kipevu
power projects, the oil refinery and housing estates.
area has administrative offices of the D.O and the chiefs who serve
Bamburi: also an outlying township (fifteen
minutes drive) on the way to the town of Malindi.
the location of Bamburi Cement
notable features in the area are the Mijikenda public beach and
, a wildlife
Diani Beach: a beach resort situated over the Likoni
Ferry on the South Coast of Mombasa.
When the United States handed over 17 suspected pirates captured in
the Gulf of Aden in June, 2009, that brought the number being held
by the authorities in Mombasa to more than 100. There had been
controversy over the correct legal procedures to judge pirates
captured by foreign countries and handed over to Kenya. Britain
handed over eight suspected pirates in November. The number of
pirates threatened to overwhelm the prisons and courts of the city
of Mombasa. When only ten of the 111 pirates had been convicted,
Mombasa began considering transferring cases to the city of
- Hybrid Urbanism By Nezar Al-Sayyad
- The African Dispersal in the Deccan By Shanti Sadiq
- The Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia by
John Gordon Lorimer p451
- The Precis Of Turkish Expansion On The Arab Littoral Of The
Persian Gulf And Hasa And Katif Affairs. By J. A. Saldana; 1904 ,
I.o. R R/15/1/724
- Arabia's Frontiers: The Story of Britain's Boundary Drawing in
the Desert, John C. Wilkinson, p44
- Francis Thoya, "The restless ghosts of Mtongwe",
Wednesday magazine, November 19, 2003.
- Online Directory: Kenya, Africa, Sister Cities
- Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent. June 12, 2009.
Captured Somali pirates are being dumped in Kenya, officials
say London: The Times Online.