Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mombasa: Part Kenya, Part Oman, All Swahili

We spent a long weekend in Mombasa, which I've been looking forward to since we arrived in Kenya. Others, after finding out I used to live in Oman, told me I'd be surprised at how similar it was. When the opportunity came up to head to Mombasa for a work trip, I jumped on it right away and decided to extend my stay through the weekend (M was there the whole time, and a friend joined for the weekend).

In some ways, it did share a lot of similarities with Oman: many (but not all) dressed in abayas and dishdashas, there were plenty of halwa (which seems like it's more commonly spelled halua here) and good dates, and we enjoyed what I would describe as the Arabian tea house experience:

At the same time, there were uniquely Kenyan features. We stayed at a relatively new hotel, which had some cool quirks like tabletops with designs from kanga, a traditional garment with a Swahili saying. I took photos of the sayings on the tables where we sat at some point during the trip (with my rough translations of their meanings):

"Love is a gift"

"A mother's love is the best"

"Preserve our culture"

"Kind words are better/worth more than wealth"

Oh, and there were camels right on the beach outside the hotel. It was amazing.

I had also heard there were many beautiful Hindu temples in Mombasa, so we tried to visit some of them. Unfortunately, we tried to visit in the middle of the afternoon. We tried three different temples, and they were all closed.

(Traveler tip: if you're trying to visit a Hindu temple in Mombasa, make sure you go in the morning or evening, when they'e actually open. Also, make sure the particular temple you're trying to enter is open to visitors outside of the faith, as not all are.)

At the very least, I snapped some exterior and entrance hall photos of a few temples. Even our brief visits made me realize how little I know about various Hindu sects, of which many seem to have institutions in Mombasa (and Nairobi).

This post is long enough as is, even though I haven't even begun to talk about two of Mombasa's biggest tourist attractions: Fort Jesus and Haller Park! I'll have to save those for separate posts.

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