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More than 3,000 years old, Mombasa city has come into contact with numerous foreign and local cultures that have significantly influenced all the social, economic, political and cultural aspects of life here. As a result, these influences are apparent in the way buildings and structures are planned, designed and built.

Although a major modern city, Mombasa is yet to fully embrace modern architectural designs and styles given that the city does not have any skyscrapers or significant high-rise buildings (other than Mombasa Trade Center and Bima Towers, 44m and 67m long respectively).

Be it as it may, the port city has the best relics of century-old buildings and structures that showcase marvelous and diverse ancient architecture, such as Gede Ruins, Fort Jesus, Mandhry Mosque (1570) and Basheikh Mosque (1300).

Types and styles of buildings in Mombasa, Kenya

Different areas of Mombasa city have distinct buildings styles that characterize the cultural and socio-economic status of the owners or occupants.

City’s CBD

The Central Business District in Mombasa covers almost the entire Mombasa Island. The types and styles of buildings within the area:

  • Are principally built using Arab, Indian and Swahili architectural plans and designs, featuring detailed decor and carvings on posts, door and window frames.
  • In the Old Town, the buildings are not only old and traditional but also built closely together and separated by narrow arrays.
  • The Swahili architectural designs and elements present here are showcased on convolutedly engraved doors, window and doorframes.

  • A predominantly Muslim city, buildings in the city’s CBD also show this influence in the meticulous latticework and in the way support brackets and balconies are built.
  • Other areas of the CBD contains storied buildings that contain several floors with very little thought and effort being placed on enhancing the architectural outlook of the building
  • Most buildings have gleaming white walls

High End Estates and Hotels

Completely the opposite of the CBD, especially the city’s Old Town, high-end estates ( such as Nyali and Diani), and hotels such as Intercontinental Hotel and Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa, have embraced modern architectural plans and designs.

  • Most of the buildings here are built using modern construction materials such as floor and roof tiles, aluminum sliding windows and doors, starlit terraces, coral stones to add a feeling of the ocean.
  • Most include remote-controlled gateways and doorways
  • There’s always a slight touch of Arab style that includes high arches

  • In high-end estates, the buildings are either semi-detached and detached maisonettes or bungalows with plush lawns and pedantically designed to accommodate the tastes and styles of owners and occupants
  • They are often rented or owned by people from the upper middle and high socio-economic class
  • High-end hotels contain luxurious and fully-furnished apartments and cottages with swimming pools, entertainment areas, parking arenas and patios, etc.

Other types and styles of buildings in Mombasa

Buildings owned by Indigenous locals

Most of the buildings owned by indigenous locals are commonly Swahili houses with majority of them being temporary structures.

  • Mud is used for walls
  • Popularly known as Makuti, palm leaves and coconut leaves are used for roofs
  • Often, mud walls are plastered with mortar to give the illusion of the building being built of stone and mortar
  • Mostly owned by the occupants, these buildings are built as large rooms or lofts not partitioned as individual rooms but as small galleries used for varied purposes
  • Mangrove poles, locally referred to as boriti are used to make ceilings
  • Most buildings have patios known as baraza made from makuti used for providing shade and used for relaxing in the evenings

Modern buildings in lower-middle & low-income areas

There are substantial numbers of modern buildings located in lower-middle and low-income areas that are made of stone and mortar and planned using modern styles and designs.

  • However, in low-income, areas such as Kisauni, Likoni and Mishomoroni, buildings are often built as large grounded buildings that are divided into single or double rooms where different tenants share one roof.
  • Additionally, buildings in low-income areas do not have fences. As a result, numerous footpaths are used to separate 1 building from the next.
  • In lower middle class areas, such as Bamburi, there are numerous bedsitters and 1 & 2 bedrooms.

Additional Structures

With the need to link Mombasa Island to the mainland, several bridges have been built including

  • Floating pontoon Nyali bridge – built as beam bridge
  • Mtwapa bridge-beam bridge
  • Makupa Causeway

News Reporter