Chronicles of a Woman in Search of Herself.
Day Four: Friday 19th April 2013.
Fort Jesus and Old Mombasa Town
Old buildings with tales of long long ago, these are a few of my favorite things- my Corrupted rendition from Sound of Musics’ Favorite Things:–)
My girl Sue came over today. She works in kwale but came so we could hang out. We watch a few plays then head to town for lunch. Turns out most of the hotels offer fast foods and very few ‘coasterian’ dishes.
After a lunch of amazing Pilau and coconut chicken, we decide to visit the Forth Jesus historical Site and Old Town Mombasa.
Love and architecture
I am endlessly fascinated by old architecture, especially those with heroic or love stories set long ago. Perhaps it is because of Roger Whitaker and his song ‘Railway Hotel which tells a heart wrenching tale of a lover who wants to take his lover to the classy Savoy Hotel but cannot afford it . He therefore takes her to the Railway Hotel, a low-end inn which has no candle lights and no soft violins. There is only dirty electric transistor and an old single bed. Ps, do not feel sad, the love lasted… smile!
Then there is the Kenyan timeless tale of Nakuru’s Lord Egerton and the Castle that took him years to build for a lady who, after seeing it, laughed it off , turned down his proposal then went back to England leaving the lovelorn Lord Egerton with a broken heart that would never heal and an apparent hatred for anything female(strange how the thin line between love and hate can get even ‘thinner’!) I do plan to say a little prayer for his old soul when I visit the castle this coming August.
There is also a lovely tale of a Hindu man who loved his wife so much that he built her an amazing castle, the Taj Mahal. It took over a decade to construct, had real diamonds used and after completion, he cut off the hands of the architect who designed it; so he would never duplicate it (how possible is it for a man to love with such crazy intensity? Huh?)
Finally, the other fascinating world building took seven years and was constructed by the wisest man alive, king Solomon. Perhaps they call him wise because he didn’t construct it for any of his one thousand women who would most probably to break his heart like Lord Egertons’ , or who would die at childbirth like the lady for whom Taj Mahal was built for! He constructed it for his God, someone who wouldn’t break his heart. Ever. It took him seven years to build this awesome temple. With cedar and pine logs imported from Lebanon, and the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, made of pure gold. Talk of love in its purest, finest form.
Back to Mombasa, our guide, a light skinned middle aged man of Arab origin told us of Fort Jesus, a place where early missionaries hid during war. It is constructed in the shape of a cross and the wall is thick and impenetrable.
We stood at the watch towers, Sue and I, and looked out into the vast waters of the ocean. Back then, they’d be able to spot an enemy ship from the watchtower and attack it, with the huge, machine gun like equipment that still stands, facing the sea.
Inside the Forte, we marveled at ancient crafts by old Arabs that tell of their lifestyle back then, ships at sea, fish, trade bags and pirates. We then looked at some items of old, guns and other merchant devices, salvaged years after a ship had sunk. An old dungeon that served as a prison cell still stands next to the ruins of an old church, perhaps a reminder of how close captivity and salvation are, even now.
The old city is mainly a series of ancient abandoned Portuguese and Arab architectural buildings. Though one or two of them are occupied by young boys selling antiques, or pretty made up Coasterian girls waiting for rich old Mzungus, or by some homeless folk , happy to own an entire building. Or bought off by some enterprising Asians, who’ve fenced it off and placed a large ‘Trespassers will be Prosecuted’ sign to wade off the idle wonderer, the curious traveler or the wild eyed, star crossed honeymooners eager to promulgate their love with a kiss under an old building in an old abandoned town called the Mombasa Old City.