Seif Halwa: Halwa
I quite often come home with some type of foods that I enjoy in Mombasa but this lat time I was only carrying hand luggage so I limited myself to bringing home only ½ a kilo of halwa.
Halwa is the sweet jelly-like confectionary made on the coast in Kenya that somehow resembles lokum or Turkish delight. It is made from the starch from cassava, cardamoms, ghee and an untold amount of sugar. Sometimes sesame is added or a mixture of sesame and cashew nuts and almonds to make the type of halwa they call Lozi
Sitting next to me on my flight home was an elderly chap who was born in the town of Mombassa and we got on to talking about the local food so I told him I had bought halwa to bring home.
“Did you get it from ‘Seif Halwa’ that is the best”?
“That place in Malindi near the mosque always used to be the best in the whole of Kenya until some of the family moved to Mombasa and set up Seif Halwa. Now the place in Malindi is not as good as it used to be and now Seif Halwa is the best.”
I had bought it from the very same shop in Bondeni in Mombasa town. The shop is not so easy to find unless you know where you are going. In fact you will probably smell the place before you see it I certainly did this last time I passed the place. The air was thick with a cardamom heavy scent coming from the small shop front. Inside freshly made halwa is divided up and weighed usually into ½ kilo portions then wrapped in brown paper and a polythene bag. The fresh warm halwa tends to stretch the poly bag a tad as you leave the shop and the comfortingly warm cardamom smell follows you down the street.
Bamburi beach, North-Mombasa: Shopping on the beach
There are a lot of Kenyan souvenirs shops on the beach. You can buy art designs of mask, animals or other typical African stuff. Expect the price to be higher here compared to the city. It's because of all the tourists in the beach.
Any shop on this street: Biashara Street for Kikoi, Khanga or Kitenge
Biashara Street is THE place to go for khangas and kikois. You may see khangas being sold at many different places all over Mombasa including the beach but the chances are that they have been bought from a shop on Biashara street.
The motto on the Obama Khanga means something like "God has granted you love and peace".
What to buy: Khanga designs are being updated constantly, there is even one shop on Biashara St that has a van driving around town showing off their new designs.
What to pay: There are scores of shops along this street and prices are usually about the same. In December 2008 I paid 240Ksh for a Kikoi and 320 for a pair of Obama Khangas. Khangas are usually sold by the pair.
All over the place: Mbaazi
Before I come home I always by at least a kilo of Mbaazi to bring home and try and recreate the wonderfull breakfasts I've had on the Kenyan coast.
It can be bought from most supermarkets and even some of the smallest dukas.
What to buy: Mbaazi, bring it home cook the living daylights out of in coconut milk and throw in the odd chilli. Ideally eat it with Mahamri but just as nice with a slice of white.
Some blokes shop down Biashara street: Leather sandals
A load of old cobblers about half way down Biashara street. There are a few cobblers in this neck of the woods but the bloke I use is the one you first see as you walk down the street.
What to buy: I buy a pair of sandals from this geezer every time I go to Mombasa have done for a few years now.
What to pay: I paid 300Ksh for my last pair.
Souvenirs shops: Better in Mombasa than in the tourist resorts
Mombasa is the capital of Kenya for the souvenirs. As a metter of fact, there is factory here, employing disable person only, for souvenir production covering entire market of the country. There are couple of nice shops in the old core of the town, offering cheaper and nicer souvenirs than those in the tourist resorts. Besides the prices, bidding is much better and here you'll find the souvenirs which cannot be found elswhere in the area of Mombasa.
What to pay: Less than in the tourist resorts
Kikambala: Local wares
Kikambala is a co-operative run by local people with local wares for sale.
If you like the look of some of the material you can get things made so cheaply and quickly it will surprise you.
Local jewellery, carvings, clothes, cookbooks can all be bought here. As can paintings and artwork, some of which are stunning.
What to buy: Wood Carvings. Material. Spices.
What to pay: Take care if you go on an organised tour, inevitably the driver stops at a 'cousins' shop where the prices can be double or treble those found in the market.
any local fast food outlet: not as tasty as chips
I'm not really sure if this should be under danger and warnings but here it is.
When in Africa eat as Africans do, so wandering into some nameless fassfood outlet i ordered the same as the person before me and sat down to a hopefully enjoyable dinner.
it wasn't, maybe it was my western tastes, the pop was nice, but i ended up back in my inn and eating cold baked beans, and i sooo dislike baked beans (even hot)
What to buy: anything that looks like the locals eat it
What to pay: as cheap as chips
street markets: cheap as chips
for someone on a tight budget and if getting a taste of local cuisine is your thing try the many street stalls for your food needs. Your savings will be large and the quality in some cases even better. From a variety of fruits and vegetables to clothes, water, shoes, electronics, etc etc you'll find everything as i did on the Mombasa streets. And the haggling and conversations you have with the locals is an added bonus.
What to buy: clothes, food, shoes, anything you can think of
What to pay: cheaper then the stores and probably the same merchandise
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HOTEL SHOP: AFRICAN ART
The hotel shop was having a sale, there were some wonderful bargains to be had.
It was one of those wonderful little shops which seem to sell anything and everything
What to buy: wood carvings are cheap and plentiful, as are hats and beadwork
paintings also make a great souvenier,
soapstone is carved into many lovely things,
but my favourite was the terracotta figures by a local artist, I wish I had been able to buy more
What to pay: soapstone chess set and board 4GBP
3` tall wooden giraffe 3 GBP
terracotta head and shoulders figure 10 GBP
Mombasa souvenir shop: Shopping in Mombasa
Instead of buying Kenyan souvenirs on the beach, try to go to the downtown. You can buy art designs of mask, animals or other typical African stuff cheaper here.
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PENGUIN FOREX BUREAU: Best exchange rate in Mombasa
Best exchange rate in Mombasa that I have found over tha last couple of years has been in the Penguin Forex, better than coast or Pwani.
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