I had met Mombasa before I actually met her. Through her many beaches and touristic attractions, Mombasa had beckoned many years ago, but my travels around the world never brought me here. But as a world traveller, something happened and this time Mombasa personally called my name.
As a judge of an International Afrocentric media award, I was asked to be part of the grand finale taking place in Mombasa. I have done Kenya many times but mostly Nairobi and Nyeri where I had Muthokoi, traditional beans and corn meal imbued with all the nice spices and flavours made famous in Nigeria by Ebiras of Kogi State and the Yorubas in Ondo state, but made more famous by my mum, the eternal Mrs Josephine Amodu. Proud daughter of the Ebira race.
Many years of Kenya, first as a tourist visiting my late friend the cerebral Ruguru Githaiga, Kenya’s first female Actuary and the highly creative Eda Mutua, my classmate at City University London, now an academic in an American university.
I return to my ughali and vegetable to pish you to next week, sukumaweeki which as roommates to my Kenyan and Tanzanian friends in London in the early nineties, before I got my own flat still brings back fond memories
I have done Kenya, eaten Nyamachoma, (Swahili for roast meat) and regaled Kenyans with my smattering of Swahili much to their delight. I did Kenya once annually for three years where I taught Public communications at the University of Nairobi as a guest of CARTA, a Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa. But this trip to Mombasa was my first, and truly Mombasa called my name.
Abari- ako, I ask in my unflappable Swahili sounding so like the native speakers. A warm handshake of Zurii sana. Fine, thank you. Smiles, warmth, community and Jambo.
I feel immediately at home. With one dinner and one breakfast in Addis Ababa, I had flown 2 and a half hours away from a different culture within 24 hours and re-immersed myself in the Kenyan traditions of hospitality and tourism with which I am now familiar. Something akin to Ethiopia whose economy is tied to the largest and best ran airline on the continent.
Mombassa, tourism, beach city, tourism, value chain. In all of this, I put a magnifying glass to Nigeria. I am searching. Mombasa has been good to me. Arriving two days ahead of schedule so I can see the city, I have sat at breakfast among exotic fish, orange, yellow, zebra-like stripes swimming under my breakfast table. I have eaten ughali at the dinner table while revelling in vegetables, fruit and seafood. But I must confess Nigerian pineapples and mangoes are still the best.
I return to my ughali and vegetable to pish you to next week, sukumaweeki which as roommates to my Kenyan and Tanzanian friends in London in the early nineties, before I got my own flat still brings back fond memories. I taught them to make egusi and they showed me how to make sukumaweeki and chapati by chapati record-holding broadcaster and friend, Tanzanian, Valerie Msoka who went on to shine at BBC London Swahili service for many years.
But it’s the Indian ocean that has capped my two days in Mombasa for now. Going for an early evening walk by the beach sand in your toes, warm water gushing towards you. The sky is the bluest blue and bumping into strangers, couples young and old all smiling back at you is what everyone needs. And with a seaside massage, today and my stress kneaded out of me by an excellent therapist while I hear the lap of the ocean and the chirping of birds mixed with the aroma of the aromatherapy oil totally sent me to never-never land. There is now a spring in my step, a permanent smile on my lips and I forgive easily and warm-up readily.
As I prepare for the business that brought me here, I am making a quick dash to museums and parks and all the lovely sights of Mombasa. Really Mombasa called my name and I am the better for it. Everyone needs to save to get away even for two days ahead of that conference. Give yourself a break, feed the giraffe, smile at a lazy lion from a safari car, eat by the sea. You have only one life. Gift yourself a me-time. I am living it up in Mombasa. Work returns tomorrow but I am a sharper, more refreshed me. Mombasa… asante sana. Many thanks.