Tag Archives: tembea kenya

Fort Jesus by night

Centuries upon centuries. The Fort still has me in awe. It was delightful to see it at night.

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An art exhibition under the moonlight. Only in Mombasa.

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Looking across into the Indian Ocean. Now there are lights, imagine how it must have been when the Portuguese lived there centuries back.

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Kahawa tungu. Enjoyed as I watched an acting troupe rehearse at the courtyard of the Fort.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!

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Coastal Reflections

Through the four previous posts, I do hope that you vividly experienced my coastal visit.

The title ‘Tembea Coast’ was a play at the Tembea Kenya promotion by Magical Kenya. I sought to see The Coast through the eyes of a mwananchi and thus eschewed all of the fancy tourist-y activities.

Apart from the sight-seeing, frolicking on the beach and club hopping, I also got to see, smell, taste, hear and touch The Coast so to speak. Through these sensory experiences I got fodder for my reflections which I can now confidently share from a position of knowledge.

As a disclaimer, I was only at The Coast for three days, I do not proclaim to ‘know’ or be an expert on the the region and none of my reflections are from a position of malice or superiority.

If cleanliness is next to Godliness then Mombasa is very far away from God or Allah. Mountains of garbage are a permanent eyesore. Blame does not entirely lay with the Council of Mombasa as I did see their workers sweeping the streets but I reckon it is a case of a wrong mindset by the residents and also lack of a structured garbage disposal and collection process by the council. Mombasa is Kenya’s premier tourist city, tourism is a bigger cog in Kenya’s economy, and therefore one would expect a basic thing like cleanliness to be sorted. That it is not is mind-boggling.

The number of mini-vans (Nissans) and Tuk-tuks has increased at a very high rate in Mombasa. The result is a lot of noise on the streets, mega pollution and the bane of all Kenya’s urban areas: traffic. I am not convinced that all those Public Service Vehicles are necessary for the population in Mombasa. It would be prudent to carry out a survey and match vehicles with need before matters get out of hand and Mombasa grinds to a halt due to traffic.

Eating out in Mombasa is quite expensive. A meal sets you back on average two hundred and fifty shillings. If you think solution is fast food then you are wrong as the prices are at least fifty shillings more than in Nairobi. As I was on holiday I had no option but to buy at the exorbitant prices but I wonder how the average salary or wage earner survives. While still on the matter of food, why is there no Nyama Choma place on the island? With the many Kikuyus, you would expect there to be several.

Another curious thing that struck me was the lack of bars on the island. I was informally told that this is as a result of the Mosques that dot the Island which frown at bars been opened near them.

When the conversation of food come up, someone quipped that there is no need to eat out as the Coastal woman is a career wife. Her joy and purpose in life is to cook, clean, look good, bear children and satisfy the man. Women empowerment is yet to take root at the Coast and inasmuch I agree that a woman can chose to be a career wife I also think she should be informed of all the possible options and then make an informed decision. As it is now, it feels like an issue of patriarchal dominance.

The stereotype of the Coastal is the stuff of folklore. Everyone seems to know and believe it. I dare to ask, are we reading them wrong?  I mean these are people who have been there for centuries, they built the Fort Jesus and they traded with the Chinese before it became cool to look East. So just maybe, just maybe, there is more to them than the stereotype proclaims.

Having said that, I must say that having gone to Likoni and all the areas I passed through before getting to Diani I reckon there is need for a mind shift by the Coastals. How one sits on empty fallow land and not think to farm it is beyond me.

Speaking of land, the common narrative that permeates this issue is that of land grabbed, people been squatters in their ancestral land and utter marginalization. The story is not entirely black and white. I heard of stories of men who have three wives, fifteen children and they still wish to sell off their land. Also of folk who sold beach front land cheaply decades ago to wabara and now they are angry at the wabara who are making millions out of the land.  Title was also another issue that stood up. Apparently title deeds are not issued always and what people have are gentleman’s agreements. X sold land Y to Z. What happens if X later says he did not? How much does this affect investments?

Mombasa Republican Council has made the news in the recent past. Before I went to The Coast I thought them to be rebels without a cause and folk who were misguided. I have since gotten enlightened. I do not for a minute support their session plans but I reckon they do have reason to be upset.

A man without a purpose is a dead man. The indigenes at The Coast had been reduced to men without purpose and thus when someone comes with a cause they will believe in it to the core. That is the essence of MRC. It has given the folk something to believe in forget whether that something is good or even right. I heard stories of guys who wake up, cross over from Likoni, spend the day at the Mombasa courts where MRC has two cases pending and then go back home in the evening. That is how much they believe in their cause. At this point law and government declarations mean little to these folk and thus I reckon the government has to be clever in how to deal with this ticking time bomb.

Coupled with the MRC issue I felt an undercurrent of guys been angry or tired with guys from upcountry majority of who are Kikuyu. Case in point, all the matatus I used had at least either driver or conductor been Kikuyu. My pal who went there three years ago now has fifteen MPesa shops. He is Kikuyu. I saw a Rongai Pub, a Thika pub and other Kikuyu named businesses.

Yes, one can argue that it’s a free country but put yourself in the shoes of the locals and then throw in propaganda and brainwashing and imagine the negative reaction. It is scary to imagine what the general election madness will add to this uneasy calm. Folk I spoke too already say they do not plan to be at The Coast during the elections.

Two issues which disturb me have happened since I left Mombasa: Pastors killed in unclear circumstances in Mombasa and Electoral commission offices raided in Mombasa.

Are they related?

This is a ticking time bomb that urgently needs to be addressed. Who will is the question.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

 


Tembea Coast – 1

For several years I have been making resolutions to travel around Kenya and East Africa but true to form, the resolutions have remained just that, resolutions.

The tide finally abruptly turned when I decided on a whim to travel to Mombasa for a weekend. When it came to it the process was pretty snappy. I decided to travel at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon, was packed by 3pm and had gotten a ticket for the 10.30pm bus by 5pm.

I took Mash Bus since it was the bus that a friend who travels regularly to Mombasa had used recently. A ticket for the regular bus goes for Ksh 1300 while a ticket for the AirCon which is the last bus that leaves Nairobi for Mombasa at 10.45pm goes for Ksh 1500 for normal seat and Ksh 1700 for VIP.

We boarded at 10.20pm and we left the station at 10.30pm. By 1.50am we were in Mtito Andei and at 5.30am we had arrived in Mombasa. Mash Bus gives water and nothing else. At their ticket price one would expect at least a snack.

The Mtito Andei phenomena is intriguing. There are restaurants galore and the bus stops for twenty minutes for folk to stretch and grab a snack or a meal. I wonder whether the eating and shopping was essential or whether it is a case of instilled tradition.

The bus had plasma screens which remained off all through the journey and this was a point of discussion for the guys who were seated behind me.  Why have plasma screens and not use them was the question.

The guys also had pretty interesting conversations about football, of course international but to their defense at least it was La Liga and not the usual English premier league fanaticism. There was also a man who is clearly a frequent traveler and he regaled his audience with tales of which buses speed and those that are driven at snail pace on the Nairobi-Mombasa route.

It would have made for fun conversation but for the little fact that at that particular moment we were in a fast moving bus whose driver was simulating a Grand Prix car and zigzag-ing on the road as he tried to evade the many trucks on the one-carriage way.  Mash Bus is certainly not for the faint hearted. Suffice to say that sleep for me was a luxury and I kept communicating with God all through the commute.

It is all well and good to have an eight lane Thika super highway but I reckon that making Nairobi-Mombasa highway at least a dual carriageway should be a priority for the government.

The bus finally got to the Mash offices in Mombasa but folk were not in a hurry to alight. There was a discussion about Mombasa Republican Council and it repercussions. Folk joked that this may be the last few months before one was required to get a visa to enter the Coast Province if the “Pwani si Kenya” threat came to pass. The overall sentiment however was that the government is not to be joked with and that when push comes to shove the army would be deployed, a curfew would be enforced and MRC would be crushed.

Finally I alighted. It had been over a dozen years since I had last been in Mombasa and my first impression was that there were too many tuk-tuks and Nissans.  There was also to my pleasant surprise none of the oppressive humidity that is synonymous with Mombasa.

Remember I had traveled on a whim and I had no idea where I was to go or where I was to sleep or what I was to do. I was a backpacker ready for anything. Also remember that it had been over a dozen years since I was last in Mombasa. To get back my bearings and at least figure out what was where I took a walk around the town.

My walk took me from Mwembe Tayari all the way up to Bondeni where I had kahawa tungu na mahamri with the old Kanzu-clad men on the streets, I then walked on Digo road, Moi Avenue, Nkurumah Road, went to Ganjoni and also to Uhuru Gradens. By the time I had gotten to the Post Office and Salambo Night Club I had recollected my bearings.

Isn’t the mind a wonderful thing?

After two hours of walking about I stumbled on a room bang in the middle of Town which was affordable, clean, had matching slippers and even DSTV. Upon checking in the receptionist gave me condoms. This she informed me was the hotel’s policy. Quite caring of them I thought.

After my sleepless travel through the night and my walkabout on the streets on Mombasa, I needed to sleep and sleep I did.

To be continued…

GOD BLESS KENYA!


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