Living in Mombasa always has its ups and downs; the humidity gets extremely annoying sometimes, the tuktuks and boda bodas and all the chaos they bring with them on the roads, the slow pace of life and the nonchalant attitude when it comes to getting things done and not forgetting the dirty streets and garbage everywhere. You might be thinking why I’m focusing on the negative side of the city, instead of trying to sell out all the best attractions in Mombasa. In life, you always need to take the bad with the good, for you to have a balance and appreciate the good things life has to offer, here are few things I’ve listed that make life in Mombasa very interesting:
When I first moved to this city and jumped into a public bus, I was entertained all the way into town. How people knock on the side of the bus and shout “shukisha” when they need to alight; you see in the capital city, it’s always a game of tap the passenger in front of you until he taps the conductor, by then you need to have measured the exact miles needed for the tap to reach the conductor at the stage you wish to alight, or better yet start getting up and maneuver your way through grumpy people until you reach for air and alight. In Mombasa all you need is to sharpen your shouting skills when you need to shout “shukisha conductor”, and knocking skills when you need to bang on the side of the matatu. Patience is a virtue you need when you’re in a matatu and it’s not full yet. They will patiently wait for that lady slowly sashaying like she’s on a runway and you are her spectators, as she slowly strolls in and takes a seat oblivious to your grumpy face!
Mombasa should win an award for the most hilarious bus stage names in the world. Hoping that you are keeping up until now, when you’re in a matatu, we already established you need to learn how to shout when you need to alight; so you need to keep up with the stage names. The most hilarious ones for me have got to be Stage ya Paka and Stage ya Papa. The first time I heard those names, I tried imagining why they named that stage after a cat or a shark. There’s a long story to it which will need a whole blog post on its own, but no it doesn’t mean cats and sharks operate the stage like some Mafia syndicate! “Shukisha Darling”; Darling is the name of a stage in Diani. When I heard that for the first time, I thought the passenger was flirting with the conductor, only to realize the stage is actually called Darling!
When you have been born and bred in a fast paced city like Nairobi, moving to Mombasa can be quite frustrating especially when it comes to people keeping time. The slow paced attitude people have about life is always an interesting sight to behold. They take their sweet time in everything that they do, they don’t like being rushed and will always have a story to tell you. Woe unto you if you get into a cab and you end up with a chatty cab driver; he will give you a history lesson about why Mombasa has so many crows, the scientific explanation as to how the winds blow at the cement factory in Bamburi and how he saw someone getting bitten by a shark (super powered sharks that are able to jump in and out of the reef). How they seem to fear rain more than anything, seeing someone in a shawl as soon as it starts raining, yet it’s more than 30 degrees outside!
The ferry ride to South Coast is always a reality show with an evil villain, the innocent couple, the mad man and the extras. I have never understood why people shove and push and run towards the ferry, yet it will patiently wait for everyone to jump on board before it sails off. People cram and squeeze like sacks of potatoes; if you’re not careful you may end up brushing lips with a stranger if you turn to look back. There’s always a mad man entertaining people, the evil villain who refuses to move when you’re searching for a seat, the innocent couple so in love and trying to steal a selfie together since photos are not allowed on the ferry. The extras in their cars, always looking out at the crew (crowd) in the ferry. The mad rush when everyone wants to rush out, or when a shark decides to excite the show by making a cameo appearance in the deep waters and everyone wants to see it!
Mombasa has so many hidden gems and places people can discover, but most people prefer to stick to the norm: crowding at Pirates Beach on Saturdays, seated on plastic chairs with a drink or looking for a spot to swim in the crowded beach. Mama Ngina Drive on weekends; when everyone parks their cars, open doors, some young ones blaring loud music, eating some Kachiri (cassava chips) and staring at ships before they dock. Most prefer to head to City Mall, enjoy a meal with the family, kids driving up and down the escalator, shop for the week ahead and do it all over again the following weekend.
There’s never a dull moment in Mombasa, it’s a city full of surprises and hilarious things to see as long as you have a positive attitude toward it. Life is truly a beach in Mombasa!