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 tends to doors with intricately carved designs. Some of these designs are also found on the furniture in upscale hotels. A walk through Old Town can yield some fascinating insights into the traditional Swahili culture, and clearly illustrate the Muslim influence on the town and its inhabitants.
Colonial buildings from the British era are also scattered throughout the city. The famous “Mombasa Tusks” are located in the centre of town – the two pairs of crossed tusks formed a ceremonial arch to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. Around the Fort Jesus area, there are other government buildings that display distinctive colonial-era architecture. 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.