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The Kenyan port city of Mombasa is actually an island and has a charming and friendly atmosphere. It features many sites of historical and cultural importance, making it an appealing holiday destination.
The highlight of Mombasa’s historical attractions is the imposing Fort Jesus. Known for its bloody past, the fort is now a shady retreat and houses the impressive Fort Jesus Museum. The defensive nature of the construction of the fort is evident in its huge angular walls, which encircle a vast area, resembling more a fortified town than an actual fort. From the restored Omani House, there is a fantastic view over Mombasa. There are ruins of a church, some storerooms, and at the seaward end of the fort lies the Hall of the Mazrui with its beautiful stone benches and eighteenth-century inscription. The museum features extensive exhibits on Swahili and Mijikenda civilizations, as well as a collection of over 7000 objects from the wreck of the Santo Antonio de Tanna, which sank in 1697 while trying to break the prolonged siege of the fort.
Nearby is the Old Town area, and its warrens of lanes are lined with charming shop fronts, old houses and mosques, displaying an interesting mixture of mixture of Italian, Portuguese and Arabic design. You can also follow the gently sloping streets down to the dhow harbour. Other sights in the town include the ornate Jain temple and the magnificent Swahili Cultural Centre.
Most of Mombasa’s first-class accommodation, excellent restaurants and nightlife are centered around the train station area. For relaxation during the day, head for one of the many beautiful beaches just north and south of the town.
For a rewarding outing, take the circuit around the windy, ocean side of the island down Mama Ngina Drive, where there are plenty of spots to gaze out at the spectacular coastal scenery. On top of the cliffs are the 19th century remains of Fort St Joseph, which afford more stunning views.
Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has direct flights from many European and several US cities, and it is possible to get direct international flights to Mombasa itself. Shuttle services from the airport to the town are frequent and reliable.