It was in the Summer of 2008 (ok, i made the summer thing up but it was in ‘08) on a terribly hot Sunday, hot as stink with zero wind which made it even more hellish. The heat made me all itchy and uncomfortable. Damn, i was almost scratching my skin off. I used to hear Mombasa was hot but i never imagined it could be THIS hot.
The entire stretch of Moi Avenue was literally empty, very few people were around and all shops were closed. I wondered where the people were; maybe it was prohibited to be in the CBD on a Sunday. Maybe, just maybe a sniper would shoot my ear off for failing to heed to the rules of the city. I made out a cat walking majestically along the pedestrian crossing near Telkom Kenya offices. It had a funny head, the cat, and one eye was missing. I wondered who had gorged out its eye and why. How do you even ‘talk’ a cat into having its eye gorged out?
Baethewei i have seen lots of cats since then and most have one eye ‘gorged’ out. Woiyee can someone please explain this to me? is it some kind of trend or style for cats in Mombasa?
A beggar was seated on a blackish cloth smoking weed and staring into nothingness as if his spirit was not even in this world. I swear he was smoking weed, am not making this up, I was just as surprised to see a beggar doing weed….and am not hating on him man. I mean, if it smells like weed, looks like weed then it’s gotta be weed!
He seemed at peace with himself and the least bothered by his predicament. A lady dropped a few coins into his bowl; he muttered a quick gratitude holding his hands to his chest but showed her the finger once her back was turned. His gaze did take a while on her brown legs protruding from her short skirt though. Such a beggar he was!
Welcome to Mombasa, a town as fascinating and intriguing as the myth that surrounds it. It has a deep, cultural history that still hangs around the Swahili architecture and shadows. The people are proud of their culture; they hang on to it tenaciously handing it over to future generations with the utmost care, like an egg that would break if mishandled.
Mention to someone from other parts of Kenya that you are from Mombasa and the questions start flowing:
Have you ever seen a mermaid?(yes i have, check them out on my Instagram, boss)
I hear cats turn into cows and cars at night? (damn true homie, cows that dance to Mzee Yusuf’s Taarab joints).
Eti ocean water tastes like salt? (haha, nah. Tastes like a mixture of Camel piss and lemons).
Either way, Mombasa is paradise, a dream destination for most people who think of travelling out of their cocoons and green houses in the villages to the vastness of the white sands and callous ocean breeze. It’s every honeymooners dream to come here and swim and get a sun tan.
People travel all the way from Europe to just come and bask naked in the sandy beaches of Mombasa. A round of applause for our good city here!
There is just something immensely spellbinding and fairy tale-like which tends to ‘detain’ anyone who dares visit Mombasa. You would not appreciate this unless you have thrived elsewhere prior to coming to Mombasa.
When i came here for the first time in ’08, local news channels were still fresh with the happenings of the post election violence. Though the chaos were not as rampant in Mombasa as compared to Kisumu and other places, what stood out like a strobe in the dark was the Ripley’s believe it or not misfortunes that befell thieves in Mombasa who thought it worthwhile to vandalise shops and rob innocent citizens
I vividly remember seeing it on the news; guys forced by circumstance to return timber and fridges and Tvs they had stolen. The guy who had stolen the Tv had it rough coz it was still stuck on his back. Others had it rougher being hospitalised after the unfortunate incidence of not pooping and peeing for almost a week! Eish!
Don’t ask me if this is even possible, i just saw it on telly and am not certain whether it was manipulated to influence public fear. But believe you me, anything is possible in Mombasa.
There is this common belief among people that once you come to Mombasa chances are that you will never go back home. I have heard of Luos from Gem who settled in Mombasa, married the locals and even adopted new names (Hamisi Odhiambo), like going to Rome and doing what the Romans do!
Some say it’s the Coastal delicacies that detain people here, others are of the belief that Coastal women are temptresses with super enchanting, flawless seduction methods, the silky smooth voices and light skins (rangi ya pesa) which make men empty the contents of their wallet, or sell the land they have back home leaving mama watoto in abject squalor!
And there are stories of how coastal women treat their men like kings (Hahaha, this is the biggest myth!). Ready flavoured tea when he rrives home, getting undressed all the way to the socks, water in the bathroom, fresh pressed clothes, and delicious food. During the night Odhiambo from Gem sees the moon, the stars, the mountains and rivers far much turbulent than river Nyando.
But i would say am a tad disappointed at what i found or did not find in Mombasa. I have always wanted to come across the infamous cats which talk back at you, the legendary mermaids whose beauty is so stunning that they literally make men walk on water never to be heard of or seen again, ever! Am yet to see a naked dude stuck up in a palm tree holding on to the coconuts (do you have any idea how tall a palm tree is?) after a night of ecstasy in the arms of a Swahili lady he picked up from the streets, wondering how the hell he got so high up the tree.
All in all, the city is awesome. The lethargy that is so common among the people is desperately contagious; it will suck you in and make you one with them. You will try your best to fight it but you will lose. You will embrace and fall in love with it. It’s that damn contagious.
Now, i strongly believe that Coastal people are very hospitable and good hearted chaps. Guys who will welcome you to their cribs and gladly break bread with you. Guys who will go the extra mile to ensure you are well taken care of, that you get the right directions to the place you need to go, and if you get lost they tell you to retrace your steps to where you met and they lead you to your destination personally.
Now that’s love, right?
In Nairobbery you cannot trust anyone. Here anything goes, someone will give you wrong directions just so you end up being mugged. The only thing i dislike about Mombasa is its thugs, yes.
You see, in Nairobi thugs don’t clobber you before they take stock of your worth, like know exactly how much you have, whether you have an ATM, a good phone, a car etc etc. They then ‘kindly’ ask you to accompany them to the bank to make a small withdrawal for a good cause. They advise you to buy a better phone and stop walking around with a Kabambe, it does not suit you, they tell you.
If they carjack you ebu imagine they will even drop you at a place you can grab a mathree to your crib.Once you are through, they let you go unharmed.
Thugs in Mombasa clobber you senseless even before they know whether you have anything of worth. Their way of clobbering is aimed at completely erasing you from the face of your earth. They grab your phone and when you scream they stab you with a rusty screwdriver and call you nasty names, names i cannot even mention in this blog. Hell, they even start screaming that you are a thief and you just might end up being set ablaze by angry wananchi!
So, if you are a thug in Mombasa please take time and visit Nairobbery, make note of their suave, calculated, innovative and digital way of robbing wananchi, then come and employ those means here. And if you get caught don’t blame abuamirah, know your 40 days are over, dude.
Haya basi, toa donge lako!