Mombasa

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The oldest and second largest city in Kenya – and the busiest port in East Africa -, Mombasa has its own distinctive style. Hot and humid, and with a distinct Arab feel to it, Mombasa has a colorful history stretching back a thousand years. Invasions, sieges, and trade have all made their mark on the culture of this coastal island city. Known in Swahili as Kisiwa Cha Mvita, Island of War, the town was an important trading center during the 11th century between East Africa and the Indian Ocean trade routes.

Within the city itself, there are numerous opportunities for exploration and discovery. Fort Jesus is perhaps Mombasa’s biggest attraction as it dominates the harbor entrance. This Portuguese stronghold was built in 1593 to fend off local enemies and Turkish warships. The remains of the fort provide an interesting tour back through history and a small museum features a variety of relics.

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The Omani House, located in the north-western corner of the fort has fascinating displays of Swahili life and breathtaking views over the old town. Mombasa Old Town features a smattering of styles and traditions common to coastal Swahili villages and late 19th century Indian and British colonial architecture. Although its history goes back centuries, most of the houses in Old Town are generally no more than 100 years old. Nevertheless, many of these buildings were modeled on ancient Swahili designs and feature intricately carved doors and door frames.