There are places in this world that are so full of history that it’s impossible to grasp the full extent of the secrets and treasures they hold. Mombasa’s Old Town is no exception! Well known for its cultural diversity, its ornate balconies, artistically curved doors, and precariously narrow streets, the Old Town beautifully sits by the shores of the Indian Ocean.
The story of Old town is still being told, more or less being written. “Going back in its history books,” narrates Musa Mansa, our guide, “It all started when the Portuguese and Arabs first sailed to the shores in the seventeenth century”. It’s rationale for the rustic corrugated iron sheets and walls that are fed up of standing. Its voice is so tremulous that you have to listen closely to the story every building tells and the former is pronounced louder every time the beauty of the sun rises and falls on this ancient coastal town. The beauty of Old Town is not just seen, it’s felt seeping through from the cracks of buildings centuries old, a mystery to the bony figure of the hands of time and perhaps, the former relying on the town’s resilience and its daring will to survive.
All around, you see all kinds of worn out buildings. At first sight, you can imagine that nobody lives here, and how mistaken you are! You will be astonished at how natives don’t bother about renovation of their dwellings, and in no minute, your ‘Musa Mansa’ of the day will tell you that this is their preference. It’s what makes Old Town their home. That might be non-sense to you, and if you are anything like us, you will throw your shades on and mull over this strange new place. Walking down the narrow busy streets between buildings, all smelling like wisdom, Old Town tells a story and if you pay attention and care to listen to what Old Town is trying to say, you will hear it beckon you to feel those old Swahili wooden doors full of hanging chains and heavy ancient padlocks. Those wooden doors have been standing ever since the beginning of time
It’s here one finds women dressed like Chinese ninjas, all in black, covering everything except a strip showing their eyes, and you wonder how they enjoy the simple pleasures of life like taking a photo with a quirky face. Heading into less busier streets, trying to avoid speeding ‘tuk tuks’, here you will bump into old Indian men probably asking themselves, “Who the hell are these people flashing cameras at my neighbor’s house?”, all heavy full of age. And at some point in life when the chaff of life has been winnowed by age, pride takes a walk. This kind of setting makes Old Town their home depicted by the unique Indian, Swahili, and European architecture preceding other qualities.