If Maasai Mara is the Kenyan gem hidden in the tranquillity of the vast Mara conservancy, then Mombasa must be the significant noisy other! A tale of two places in one entity but so torn from each other that they appear to be galaxies apart. If they were brothers, Mara would be the elder, suave, collected, decisive one who listens to Jazz and Country music taking extravagant sips of exotic French wine, a sucker for women in high heels too! Mombasa would then be the younger, more jovial, care free one who loathes suits, fancies colourful pants, noisier, a party animal of sorts who is in party gear four days in a week. His women, well, the more revealing the better!
While the former boasts of a numerous number of individuals coming into terms with their inner selves due to the calmness that can only be found in the Mara, Mombasa for some is a boulevard of broken dreams largely due to the intentions that they harbour while coming here.
Most are of the avert notion that Mombasa is all play and no work, or work less and play harder. Well, the notion is almost true; the only problem is that they (read upcountry lasses) think that it’s all about flashing their tiny bums as a tourist passes by in the air conditioned van and the money starts flowing like rain. Or exhibiting the aforementioned bums in the beach where the same tourists sample them like melons in the market, choosing the darkest and slimmest while leaving out the fleshier varieties.
I do find this peculiar, the Caucasian male tourists choosing the slimmer, dark skinned lasses. It is a common thing to see a middle aged Mzungu walking along with a skimpily dressed slim lady. I am not sure why the preference though; and whenever you see a plump African lady walking along with a Mzungu they usually have a kid or two with them, kids with eyes as blue as the ocean and curly hair. I choose not to believe that it is the slim chick that put on some flesh and weight and decided to breed, no.
I prefer talking about Mombasa like it is my home, my second home, a home away from home. I was born miles away in the fertile valleys of Kikuyu land, land that the colonial master chose for himself to grow crops, raise livestock and whip my ancestors’ asses, forcing them out of the land they had inherited from Old man Gikuyu himself.
This i guess may have made Gikuyu to turn in his grave crying his beloved land. My people were forced by the White Man to get their asses into humble helping gear, assisting the Colonialists to establish their base in what they came to call “White Highlands”. White my foot, those highlands are greener than the manicured lawns of Buckingham Palace.
That’s where i come from, the green highlands that is, not the palace! And while other kids, say in Nairobi grew up on Cerelac and Weetabix, i was fed on arrow roots, legumes and roast bananas. A kid brought up in the city would fart a baby fart which smelt of cereals and sweet things; a smell that would make a lady go like ‘Aaawww, aki that’s so adorable!’I on the other hand would fart grown up stuff. Stuff that would give house flies and Tse-Tse flies total blackouts! stuff that would make a girl go like, ‘damn, this kid got some killer farts!’
I have embraced Mombasa as my home since the last eight or so years, majorly because I am bound together with the folk here, not by common descent but by the common adherence to an ideology. With them i found a home away from home and they embraced me like a prodigal son even if my accent heavily laden with sheng gives me away.
I fell in love with Mombasa from the moment i saw the massive blue ocean as we made our entry right after Changamwe; there was something s exotic, inviting and intriguing about the palm trees i saw on my way that i just wanted to rush and hug them, the trees. I wanted to hit the beach and roll in the white sands naked leaving behind butt prints with every roll.
For me, Mombasa has been an avenue of fulfilled dreams and a tranquil lifestyle, perhaps because i chose a more serene way of eking a living. Not so with most others, locals even. I have stared more than once into faces which have lost all hope of ever building their lives into something they could at least hold with their hands and say, this is my life, this is what i have made of it.
You will see these faces along the beaches mostly and in street alleys. Faces physically present in the world but minds totally expunged from it. Their eyes tell of a million dreams and hopes dashed against the calm ocean waters and washed away to distant shore, never to return to their owners. They tell of mistakes made and the unwillingness to correct them.
Along the beaches you will see these young, dark skinned dreadlocked chaps whose dream and ambition is to get hooked to a Caucasian female who would perhaps, after a night of immoral intimacy and perversion, get them a visa to the West or include them in their long distant payroll system which would include constant emails and skype sessions; the rasta boy telling the blonde lady of how he misses the scent of her smooth, silky hair and pink whatevers!
If the dreams not materialize, the chaps just hang around the beach rushing to every tourist they see. At times i sit on the sand studying them, wondering how someone can just watch their dreams ebb away hinged on the hope that someone else will alleviate their poverty, their unrealistic way of life just because of faked intimacy. To me, this is slavery all over again!
I have seen most of these guys, in Watamu especially, carrying around shopping baskets on one hand and on the other holding a frail looking Mzungu lady old enough to be their granny. I don’t know what these ladies see in these chaps who, and this is just my opinion, look as if they created enmity with showers and baths almost a decade ago.
Either way, Mombasa is a place that anyone can fall in love with. Besides all these sex drama, the natives are awesome people. They have been brought up on a theme of generosity and kindness to one and all and they lend a helping hand without the prejudice so common in Nairoberry. I have seen the place rise from a life of indolence almost a decade ago to one of enterprise, hard work and innovation. Inasmuch as some times we, the people of Mobasa feel like we have been marginalised by the Central government, there are elements and individuals who are working day and night to change this beautiful city.
People like Ahmad Maawy of Swahili Box and Murad Saleh of Crablinks Interactive have set the trend, the standard, the reality that if you are good at what you do then you can not only change yourself but an entire community, county and even Nation.
These are the kind of people who make me proud of the beautiful city of Mombasa!