Mombasa is Kenya's second city and perhaps its most charming. Saturating the offshore island it's situated on, it's a crowded city but somehow always chilled, far less frenetic than the capital, Nairobi. Many people simply pass through Mombasa on their way to the white beaches north and south. However, it's worth lingering in this atmospheric city, where commercial ships and traditional dhows mingle in the harbour, to soak up some history.
Mombasa's fascinating history can be seen and felt most strongly in the twisty turns of the narrow streets in the Old Town. A jumble of filigree balconies and elaborately carved wooden doors, this quarter of town holds all the romance of the past, but people still live and trade here. Trade gave birth to this city on the Kenyan coast, and its importance in Mombasa's history can be seen in Fort Jesus, designed to protect Portuguese interests in East Africa. It's one of the oldest European buildings in East Africa, and considered to be one of the finest examples of Portuguese military architecture. Within its thick walls it's easy to imagine life as it was then, so evocative is the atmosphere, and the memorabilia.