This article (edited version) was first published on ‘Travel Log Magazine’ an insert of Standard Newspaper on 13/12/19
December is upon us and soon enough, Mombasa will be congested from droves of holidaymakers. It is no secret that we all love Mombasa, because hey! ‘Mombasa raha ama vipi?’ We definitely love our home and love being part of it; the entire thing, the good, the bad and the fun! Now here’s a few pointers for our esteemed guests when they come for holidays:
1. Mombasa is an island, and just like any island, we move in slow, calm waves. We are relaxed people; we know it, and we are totally okay with it. Our pace should not in any way make you think we are in any way lazy or too unbothered or have no worthy place to be at. We on the other hand are not fans of the chaos and wildness of the cities and if you noticed, we are doing very well as we are. No one would want to come to our home if it weren’t for this exact solace and calmness that you sometimes criticize.
2. We know that Mombasa is very hot and even hotter during December season. Please do not worry about our hijabs and buibuis. We have lived here our entire lives and this heat has become part of us, we are okay still wearing black under the scorching sun. You can term us ‘Warriors’ for that, we definitely are!
3. Please understand that Kiswahili, is a very beautiful language and has its deep history originating not just from Mombasa but other parts of the Eastern Coast and even beyond. The Swahili accents differ from place to place and tribe to tribe. Ours is as sweet as our souls and we are proud of our mother tongue. Now, do not in any way think that Kiswahili speakers are in any way less educated, civilized or modern. You’d be surprised how many scholars, educators, established business people we have, who take pride in talking in Kiswahili rather than any other seemingly ‘advanced language’.
4. We are kind people. We value brotherhood and we are always ready to assist anyone. Please note however, that when we decide to show you directions or assist you with water or literally take you on a tour, that that is not a cue for wanting small talk or giving out our phone numbers or wanting any kind of intimacy (unless otherwise clearly stated). We are simply kind people. Please get used to it.
5. Walk anywhere, and I mean ANYWHERE in Mombasa and I can promise you that you’ll find someone doing business there, or marketing or just hustling in whichever way they can. We do have idlers and drug addicts and other vices, just like ANY other town. So please, when you get back home, remember to take the report back home that we are not lazy people as many perceive. Talk of the women you saw very early before dawn, selling those delicious Swahili food. Talk of the many seminars that you saw youth attending. Talk of the protests being done continuously to fight for our rights. Talk of the men going to ‘mjengo’ every morning and returning late at night. Talk of how hard working we really are and be part of breaking the available stereotypes.
6. As Swahili people, we really value our culture and principles. We behave in certain ways, dress in certain ways, talk in certain ways…Of course we can’t hold our visitors as prisoners to our values but please, could you try to at least respect our culture? Could you try to be more sensitive to what you say to the locals, or how you dress when amidst the locals or how you behave when invited in someone’s home? We do understand that people come from very diverse cultures and backgrounds and we function in different ways. But as the common saying goes, ‘When you go to Rome, you do as Romans do.’ This is not a rule but more of a humane expectation. If the Coastal women, for example, refuse to shake hands with the male or drink alcohol or party till late night or anything else we’re not comfortable with, remember to not be prejudicial. Respect the culture instead.
December is a paradoxical time for the Coastals. We are not huge fans of all the over-crowded beaches and extremely busy roads and places, yet we are happy to receive people and shower them with our warmth and kindness. Not to mention the business opportunities huh! To end this I say, ‘Karibuni sana Mombasa.’