Holidays and Festivals in Mombasa

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A cultural port town, Mombasa showcases its traditions and customs to both the locals and newcomers. During specific days of the year, Mombasa city becomes awash with festivities and celebrations characterized by traditional music, dances, narratives and sports.

Mombasa city boosts of deeply embedded cultures and traditions and an array of customs practiced by the indigenous residents who comprise of the Rabai, Chonyi, Digo, Ribe, Giriama, Kambe, Kauma, Duruma and Jibana (who makeup the Mijikenda peoples).

Due to the long history of foreign traders with Chinese, Persian, Portueguese, Arabian, African and Indian origins occupying and even some ruling Mombasa island, the majority of modern cultures practiced here have various elements of foreign social-cultural influences. These are clearly evident when the locals hold their festivals.

Mombasa Street Cultural Festival

Debatably the most popular, best and engaging festival held on Kenyan soil, the Mombasa street cultural festival simply known as Mombasa Carnival brings the best elements of coastal city culture to the streets.

An event held in November every year, the festival presents vibrant street parades and multinational floats and it is organized by the Ministry of Tourism.

  • The festival features the best of traditional and contemporary artists and musicians, pomp and colorful d├ęcor and most interestingly, the sounds of Taarab (popular genre of music at the coast)
  • Traditional dances include belly dancing and invigorating body movements, which are accompanied by drinking of Mnazi (local brew made from coconut sap) and Madafu (fresh coconut milk)
  • The most notable element of dressing during the festival is the Kanga and Kikoi, which are the traditional clothing worn by both men and women.

Kanga is a one-meter length colorful cotton sheet with diverse designs and prints, usually tied at the waist. Often, women will use it as a throw-on to cover their heads and shoulders while Kikoy are a favorite of men and they come in different textures and colors

  • Other than the type of material used to make Kanga, kanga differs from kikoy on one key thing: kanga always have bold Swahili proverbs and metaphors printed at the hem. Popular proverbs include, Mgagaa na upwa hali wali mkavu, nipe nikupe, mganga wangu ni Yesu, among others
  • Food is central to the festival with various delicacies such as Pilau, mahamri, viazi karai, biryani and charcoal grilled chicken etc., and spices such as iriki, mndarasini and tangawizi being sold in the streets at affordable prices
  • The main stage of the festival showcase local bands and dancers with various stalls offering varying artworks
  • The climax of the event is sailing regatta at the Indian ocean

Mombasa Triathlon

This event is held in September every year.

  • A two-day occasion, Mombasa triathlon entails a one and a half kilometer swim in the Indian Ocean that is followed by cycling for 40km ending with a ten kilometer race through the streets of the city. The intense tropical climate makes the event a challenge for both amateur and professional competitors

Both international and local competitors participate in the event

Oktoberfest

A recent addition to festivals held in Mombasa, Octoberfest / Oktoberfest is a three-day annual event held in October that features popular local and international brands and a display of innovations.

  • Additional elements of the festival includes local and foreign cuisines, local and international beer brands, musicians and artists

The festival fuses Kenyan and German cultures especially in terms of food and beer


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