Mombasa is the second-largest city in Kenya. Lying on the shore of the Indian Ocean, it has a major port and an international airport. The city also serves as the centre of the coastal tourism industry.
Also known as Mombas in colonial times, its name has been derived from Manbasa. This was the Arabic name of the former sultanate of Mvita, which had its capital here. In modern times the town is the headquarters of Mombasa District, which, like most other districts in Kenya, is named after its chief town.
The city has a population of 939,370, as per the 2009 census, and is located on Mombasa 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 Causeway, alongside which runs the Kenya-Uganda Railway. The port serves both Kenya and countries of the interior, linking them to the Ocean. The city is served by Moi International Airport located in the northwest mainland suburb of Chaani, northwest of Changamwe area.
The city is mainly occupied by the Mijikenda&Swahili people. The major religion practiced is Christianity, Muslims also form a considerable number. 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.
Traditional dress for the Swahili women is a brightly coloured, printed cotton 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 kikoi.
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 the mainland by two creeks, Port Reitz in the south and Tudor Creek in the north.
Mombasa has a warm, tropical climate. The amount of rainfall depends essentially on season. The rainiest months are April and May, while in January to February the rainfall is minimal.
Moi International Airport serves the city of Mombasa. It is located in Port Reitz area, also known locally as Chaani area on the mainland metropolitan area. Flights to Nairobi and other Kenyan, European and Middle Eastern destinations depart from the airport. Besides Mombasa and Nairobi is well connected by chartered flights operated via Wilson 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.
Driving in Mombasa is straightforward and the majority of the roads are tarmacked. Main roads include; Jomo Kenyatta Avenue, Digo Road, Nyerere Road, Nkurumah Road, Moi Avenue, Mama Ngina Drive, Barack Obama Road, Nairobi Highway and Nyali Road
Highways connect Mombasa to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam while northward road link to Malindi and Lamu, which also extends towards the border with Somalia.
Moi Avenue in Mombasa
Taxis are common around the city and are a convenient form of transport although costly. Taxis may be found at the airport, outside most hotels, shopping malls and in the city.
Within Mombasa, most local people use Matatus (mini-buses) which are extremely common in Kenya, to move around the city and its suburbs.
A Tuk-Tuk is an auto rickshaw, a motor vehicle with three wheels. It is widely used by people as a transport to move around the city and its suburbs.
A boda-boda is originally a bicycle taxi. Especially in cities, the bicycles are becoming increasingly replaced by motorbikes.
Mombasa port is the largest in Kenya. There is little or no scheduled passenger service. International cruise ships frequent the port, thus giving Mombasa a natural harbour.
Mombasa ferry (photo taken on the side of Likoni mainland)
There is no bridge between Mombasa Island and south coast. Instead, the distance is served by ferries operated by the Kenya Ferry Service from Kilindini and Mtongwe to Likoni in the south coast of Mombasa. In 1994, a ferry serving Mtongwe route sank, killing over 270 people.
As a result of the major build-up of more luxurious hotels in South Coast and a lack of a direct bridge linking the South Coast to the North Coast, visiting tourists have the option of flying directly into the South Coast airstrip using the domestic airline, Air Kenya.