I knew of the Mama Ngina Drive years ago on my first trip to the coast while in a primary school in Nairobi. Though years back there was not much to see of the very popular hangout, what remained in my mind for long was watching the big ship at dock in and out of Kilindini Harbor while enjoying the delicious snacks that are on sale in the area.
I always wanted to go back to the place when I was old enough to take myself, though I have made several trips to the coast, an opportunity never presented itself. I was pleased to hear of plans to develop the place into a public recreational facility and decided to wait until the construction was over.
The Mama Ngina Waterfront was officially opened by His Excellency the President in October 2019 which was commemorated by celebration of Mashujaa day celebrations, a public holiday that celebrates our heroes who fought for our countries independent on 20th October. The event was open to the public though they had to restrict the number of people who attended due to space.
There was much advertising done about the park with stunning pictures of the transformed park that somehow looked too good to be true. It was until I visited the park that I had to confirm that the pictures represent reality. Though the place is still undergoing some final touches with some places especially the designated museum not yet complete. The place is open to the public to use the completed structures and enjoy the great sea views.
The Main Attractions
The Waterfront runs from the Likoni ferry crossing all the way to Mombasa Golf Club with the road remaining open for public use. The park has seen the construction of a rail barrier around the cliff preventing people from going directly to the shore, though one can walk down the cliff during the morning hours when the tide is low.
There is a big pedestrian path lined with palm trees from one end to the other ideal for walks, runs, jogging or dog walking. This path also has benches and sitting areas for people to rest. There is designated parking for the people who choose to relax in their cars as this has been the main park attraction with the park open for 24 hours.
The many snack vendors were also not left behind as they have a central place where they can continue selling their delicacies with enough spaces for putting up modern kiosks with grilling kitchen and a customer sitting area. The delicacies which are served here include fried snacks like potatoes, cassava, cassava crisps (kachiri), fish and chicken, sweets, ice cream, madafu(coconut drink) among other coastal delicacies.
There other features that have been added to the 26 acres water space that includes, an amphitheatre with a design close to how they did it in ancient Rome with a sitting capacity of 3000. It is set up with a large open space that can hold entertainment concerts and roadshows either during the day or night as it is well light with huge floodlights.
There is also a cultural centre named Kilindini Cultural Center which is built in great Swahili architecture but has a modern fill added to it. This will serve as an exhibition and museum for great Swahili culture and comprises exhibition halls and screening rooms where visitors will come and learn about the Swahili culture as well as the history of the great port that has served East and Central Africa for decades.
There are also two cylindrical pigeons towers built in the typical Swahili culture architecture which consist of a smooth wall with decorative air vents to allow wind to blow in. They are monuments of the original settlers of Mombasa.
At the far end near the Likoni crossway, the old baobab trees dating back to 400 years have been retained for the public to provide an area where people can rest away from the hot sun after a busy day while waiting to cross to the other side through the ferry. These trees have a great history to tell as they were believed to be grave makers for many original settlers who were killed during the war.
Although the park still needs a little touch including the opening up of the cultural centre, great archaeologists are piecing up information to tell the great story of the Port formation which will be shared to visitors of the park by trained local guides who will be available on request by the visitors.
There is also a Chinese restaurant situated inside the park for those who would prefer fine dining. There are plans to open up more restaurants serving great Swahili cuisines to attract more visitors especially international tourists who frequent the coastal area for holidays.
The park is open to the public for 24 hours and comprises public toilets and a police post for added security. The county government, however, needs to put signage to help pedestrians and cars keep to their lanes. I also noted there is no waste disposal strategy, no bins to through litter around the park hence most of it ends up at the seashore.
However, once all this is put in place, this will be a very popular site, especially for photography as the great Swahili designs provide instagramable photos without the need of a professional shoot.
Also Read: Mombasa City Tours