Mombasa, Kenya » City Info » History

Mombasa has a long history. The traces can be found in the writings of the 16th century. Many traders attempted to enforce their governance on the town due to its advantageously central location. The Arab influence is felt prominently to date.

Mombasa remained the centre of the Arab trade in ivory and slaves from the 8th to the 16th century. It is known that Arab traders sailed down around to the coast of Kenya from the first century AD, which continued to build trade along with the ports of Mombasa and Lamu.

Portuguese also had their influence on the port that changed the face of the land by burning it almost three times. It is believed that Vasco da Gama was the first known European to visit Mombasa, whose purpose of exploration was to spread the Christian faith to expand Portugal's trading area further. Mombasa became Portugal's main trading centre of spices, cotton and coffee, where Fort Jesus was constructed. The Fort served as the primary centre for trading goods that protected the Portuguese from conflicts with locals. Fort Jesus still attracts plenty of tourists and visitors.

As slavery was highly practised during that era, the local slaves were exchanged for goods. Until 1698, the Portuguese controlled the city, but soon the Omani Arabs took over the charge. Finally, the British took control of Mombasa in 1895, wherein the British East African Protectorate was established. Colonisation perpetuated in Mombasa promoted European culture over the town and the Kenyan lands. Like in India, the British gained momentum and established control of the port. They even built a railway line in the early 1900s from Mombasa to Uganda, which is perhaps the major landmark in the history of Mombasa. Thus, from 1887 to 1907, Mombasa remained the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate.

The British rule ended, and Kenya received its independence on the 12th of December 1963. From herein began the creation of political parties and unions that faced elections to form a stable government. However, significant political shifts and oppositions led to violence. The pressure from the international and African community forced the leaders to come to a consensus and form a power-sharing agreement finally.