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Published: September 29th 2011
Relaxing by the sea
and about to wash all his clothes
Jambo, where are you from? This question you hear many times per day from the locals here. It sounds quite friendly and welcoming but you have to be careful with you answer. They are waiting that you’ll say that you are from USA, Australia, Canada, England, Scandinavia and all other richer countries in the world, and then the prices are increasing at least five times than to the locals. People are trying to figure out and guessing there are you from all the time and after our six nights here we were quickly got tired of this and tried to figure out which country we would like to belong to and have tried with South Africa, Sweden, Australia and Lithuania. We did understand that Lithuania influence them best because they don’t know where it is and look at us confused, and they go away. There is a lot of hassling in this town and it hard to enjoy some peace for a couple of minutes. After a day of loud and terrible traffic, in the evening you are absolute exhausted psychological and physical.
The “matuta” has own charm here in Mombasa. You can easy get a ride and a better
seat since you are a “mzunga” (white) in the loud and packed of people the minibuses. The minibus conductor is hanging through the window and shouting out the direction the matatu is going to. All the time people are going on and off, and it doesn’t matter that the matatu is already full people trying to get on. Luckily we do get the front seats quite often and we do enjoy the town life, loud beach music which is playing in the matatu and admire the people. But you can forget to sit in peace in these matutus because the sellers are hanging around your widow when the car is standing still and waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. They try to sell us all kinds of things like bottles of water, bananas, a string etc. It even happens that a tuk-tuk’s driver is trying to get you out of the matatu, and give a ride by a tuk-tuk instead, crazy and illogical huh?!... but we have learnt what doesn’t make sense for us so it is complete normal in Kenya. However, it is a wonderful feeling to become one of them and experience the real Kenyan life.
This town is mixed of different cultures and it has an ethnical tension as well. It seems that many Indians have created a life in Mombasa. Right now it is off season for the tourists but in our opinion is a best time to be in this African paradise. The temperature doesn’t decrease below 30 Celsius and it is hard to stand out the middle day heat but to take a dip in Indian Oceana isn’t a bad idea either (25 Celsius and up in the sea). The high season in Mombasa is November to February, and the temperature is higher than now. We did notice a negative thing in the non touristic season in Mombasa – a lot hassling since there are not many tourists in the town.
The market business is the main thing in Mombasa and of course the tourists contribute the biggest part for it. It is possible to find all sorts of things in these streets and they will try to sell you for “a great price” which is at least double or triple the local prices. On the streets the men are chewing the miraa (twinges and shoots that are chewed as
a stimulant) and shouting out the prices in Swahili, and now the knowledge becomes necessary. Actually, we do avoid the market sellers and we are going to the supermarket where you can find the fixed prices. Kenyans try to charge you for everything and at least double because you are a white tourist and have “a bag” of money. We were surprised that the national parks cost 3-5 US dollars for the locals.. and guess how much it costs for the tourists?! Well 80 US dollars and they increase the price few months ago because before it was JUST 40 US dollars. Another interesting thing that tourists should leave some tips in the restaurants but the locals never do it. Actually, we think that tourists have spoiled and we’re too openhearted to the locals. Now the tourists are used like a national bank to get free money. We understand they have to own the money somehow but it is frustrating that the prices increasing so drastically for the tourists and you’ll never get the right price. Remember that it is possible to barge everywhere and every time in Kenya.
There are many homeless and street children, and often in
the evenings on the streets. Of course the tourists are the main people who are giving some shillings to them. But the biggest problem is that if you give to one child, so after few minutes you’ll have a whole kindergarten after you. Maybe one of the worse sign when the mum says to the kid is following a tourist until he/she give some shillings. The children is growing up with the attitude and stereotypes that all mzunga have a large amount of money and they should beg for it. We have experienced that the kids are becoming aggressive and swearing at us if we don’t give what they want. Actually this is scary sign that the children are growing with aggression to the tourists if they don’t give them some shillings. Sometimes we’re wondering how they are creating the future in the own society. We cannot forget the fact that tourism is the main income in the country.
Well the main attraction in Mombasa is Fort Jesus and many tourists are going to the museum in the fort. But we were pleased to sit outside and enjoyed the nice view, but it is hard to sit in the
peace since hassling boys are around and trying to sell or offer some kind of services all the time. The ruined fort gives the own charm and you come back to the old times. It would be interested to see how Kenya was many years ago before the technology, cars etc became famous. Now the streets are full of traffic and it is hard to find a car which wouldn’t have been involved in some kind of accident. The small car crashes are absolute normal and the police don’t need to be involved.
The power cuts are really popular in the town. It is nothing impossible in Mombasa, and the power cuts can take few minutes or hours. People are used to it and almost nobody reacts when the power is disappearing. But the power brings the happiness around the city when it is back, and people are singing and dancing.
However this town has a fresh breath after Nairobi hectic life. The beaches in Mombasa are just amazing and great to sit and relax with a great book the hand. We did stay in the Nyali area with our CS friend Bryan. Nyali Beach is in a
walking distance and it was perfect to chill out some days but the heat is humid. On this beach every day meets many local residence and you have to chance to talk to them and get great information as well. If you miss your home so it is a possibility to meet your nationality people who give you a slide of home feeling. Well Mombasa is Kenyan paradise and you’ll hear that this place is one of the best in Kenya. Actually, it is a great combination of hectic and relaxed life, and you get the balance… and like a Kenyan would say “pole, pole” (slowly) move forwards.
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