Mombasa Raha

September 6, 2007

I’m officially three months old in Mombasa! That qualifies me to give a fairly well informed opinion of the place.

My verdict: GREAT! My reasons?

Firstly, there’s the (sometimes bothersome but generally) lovable laid back character of the people. Unlike Nairobians, Coastal residents act like they have all the time in the world. Talk of savouring “the moment”. No one ever seems to be in a hurry. What’s more, they are a lot less cranky and a lot friendlier.

Loving food like I do, I can’t wish for a better place to live in. Locals here, the swahili, long perfected their cooking into a fine art. Forget the blunt boiled white rice we’ve grown used to… here nothing heads for the palate or anywhere near its precincts – or is considered decent enough to go in there without the permission of an assortment of well picked and perfectly marched spices. It’s no coincidence considering the proximity of spicy island, Zanzibar. The last time I checked, I weighed 57kgs(three weeks ago). I am now on a spirited campaign to add 5 more kgs by the end of the year. That doesn’t sound far fetched here. It would be a shame if the mahamri, biriani, pilau and kuku wa nazi would let me down.

Then there’s the music. Taarab rules the airwaves here. For the uninitiated, taarab is a form of poetry that is sang instead of being narrated. The ‘mashairi’ (poems) are made to float on harmonious accompanying drum-beats and flutes. The narrations, like rap, are not sanitized or disguised, but merely hidden behind facades of similes, parables, old sayings all in conc. swahili. Most are about dissing imaginary foes(or so I hope because some are grossly insulting). Overall, extremely enjoyable.

Coastal weather is warm, nay hot and humid. All the time.

Of course the other thing I love is the beach. Living in Mombasa is like being on holiday, all the time(don’t be envious!).

At the workplace, we have a googleplex-like atmosphere (complete with free gourmet meals and gym if you are stationed in our training institute, KRATI…;)) dress code is relaxed for all staff unlike Nairobi where you have to observe and maintain official business-wear always. ACs are installed everywhere. All offices have cold/hot water dispensers. Our staff quarters are among the best regionally and rapport with the right people will get you free transportation to the workplace everyday.

However, like all else, Mombasa has its downside. My pet peeve is the constant humidity. Can you imagine sweating as you come from the bathroom? Fortunately something can be done about it, atleast indoors – installing the ACs. Another grouch I have is the slightly saline taste of our tap water.

All in all, I love it here. Despite its ancient look and the dilapidated buildings, it’s a charming city overall. And like they say, “kuingia ni harusi, kutoka ni matanga”. Am getting hooked… who’s gonna rescue me?

What would be your verdict?