Street-wise on Mombasa Beach

Mombasa Beach is as busy as any street, and like any downtown district anything can be traded there. In the margin between ocean and hinterland, people feel they can live outside accepted moral and  cultural bounds. Kikuyu boys may dress up as Maasai to cash in the ‘warrior’ cachet that is so attractive to European women; white women of a certain age think it OK to flaunt themselves on the sands with lovely young Kenyan boys whose real hope is to be adopted or sponsored through school; dope can be bought along with the kanga wraps and hand-carved giraffes. All, then, may not be quite what it seems in this Indian Ocean ‘paradise’.










Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

30 thoughts on “Street-wise on Mombasa Beach

  1. Beautiful pictures. Hope they all are street wise there… there are so many misunderstandings… sometimes with tragic results in such circumstances…

    1. Yes indeed, Shimon. When much of the population is in real need, and there are tourists with so much money (by ordinary Kenyan standards) things can get very exploitative. And actually very ugly. I might write a post about it: sex tourism. I have to get myself in a frame of mind where my blood is not boiling!

  2. Such great images. The colors are so vibrant against the blue background. I’ve been to a some places where the locals are desperate to leave and start a new life. It’s not paradise for everyone.

    1. No indeed, John. Even though I lived in Kenya for nearly 8 years, I don’t think I grasped how truly poor so many people there are. Tourism doesn’t benefit them as much as it might either. Most of the big hotels are foreign owned, although they do employ a lot of local people at very local rates.

  3. These photos made me feel quite nostalgic – I love going to Mombasa but the contrast from when we went during the school holidays and now is unbelievable. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the beaches fronts were not crammed with hotels and restarts. Mile after white sandy mile stretched out in either direction with hardly anyone in sight. The hotel we used to stay at used to clear away the seaweed and serve afternoon tea on the beach. I don’t remember there being any askaris guarding the beach side of the hotel but it may be that I just didn’t notice them in my eagerness to beach comb for shells! How things have changed but that has as much to do with the population explosion (I read that it went from 8 million to 40 million between 1960 and now) and the desperation to make a living – any sort of living…so desperately sad too with the recent tourist warnings that are in effect until October.

    1. Yes, a lot of changes, Selma. My impression, after staying at several of the beach hotels, was that they corral the guests from the beach hawkers. The askaris patrol the hotel perimeters to keep the hawkers away. It’s a shame really. If you go on the beach hoards of people try to sell you stuff unless you say you’re local. Then they usually just chat. But I love the idea of afternoon tea on the beach – and after it has been swept 🙂

      1. Yes, when we were there 8 years ago, it was very much like that – askaris posted at the walled boundaries before the beach and lots of beach wheeling and dealing going on!

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