MOMBASA, the chief port of Kenya Colony, East Africa, in 4' S. ; 43' E. and 150 m. north of Zanzibar. It is built on a coralline island situated at the mouth of a deep arm of the sea. It had a population (1921) of 36,846, of whom 656 were Europeans and 7,574 British Indians. In 1933 the population had increased to 54,800 (1023 Europeans). Mombasa harbour takes vessels up to 3o ft. draft, but is now used mainly by dhows; the principal harbour is Kilindini, at the southwest end of Mombasa island.
Spacious and land-locked Kilindini accommodates vessels of any size and takes all the traffic of the Kenya and Uganda rail way which, starting from Mombasa, is carried to the mainland on a bridge half a mile long. A causeway is built by the side of the bridge, a navigable channel of 180 ft. being left. A deep-water wharf with two berths provided with all facilities for loading and unloading, built by the Government at a cost of over ii,000,000, was completed in 1926. A third berth was added in 1928. Much of the cargo had still, however, to be handled by lighters and the administration acquired large areas for development purposes. In 1898 the value of imports and exports combined was £370,000; in 1928 about £20,000,000. The increase indicates the growing trade of Kenya and Uganda.
Viewed from the sea Mombasa has a picturesque apearance, the most conspicuous object being the fort, built on a coral hill 4o ft. high. Except for the main street and Government Square, Mom basa is like any Oriental city—a maze of narrow, irregular streets and lanes. Some of the houses have finely carved doorways. To the south, overlooking the sea, is the European suburb.. The pub lic buildings include an Anglican cathedral, a Roman Catholic church, Hindu, Parsee, and Mohammedan temples, and schools, hospitals and law courts, the last named completed in 5902. Built into the façade of the law courts is a stone with an inscription re cording the building of a fort, dedicated to St. Joseph, by the Portuguese at Kilindini in 1666. This stone was found in the ruins of Fort St. Joseph. Mombasa Fort, or citadel, quadrangular in form, reddish in colour, was built by the Portuguese in 1593-1595 and known as the Jesus Fort. It bears the symbol I.H.S. The fort was repaired by Seixas de Cabreira in 1635. The population of the town is cosmopolitan, with three well-marked racial distinctions: the Arab (Swahili), the Indian and the European. The climate is fairly healthy, and Europeans live there in tolerable comfort. The average annual rainfall is 47 inches.
Mombasa island (named after the town) is 3 m. long by 21 m. broad, with an area of 9 sq.m. Except at the western end, the coast consists of cliffs from 40 ft. to 6o ft. high. The island con tains many plantations, chiefly of coconut palms. Ruins of Arab, Portuguese and Turkish buildings are found in various parts of the island. At Ras Serani are the ruins of a chapel "Nossa Senhora das Merces," built by the Portuguese in the 17th century on the site of a Turkish fort, and turned into a fort again by the Arabs.
Mombasa takes its name from the Mombasa in Oman. A Perso Arabic settlement was made here about the 11th century. It is mentioned by Ibn Batuta in 1331 as a large place, and at the time of Vasco da Gama's visit (1498) it was the seat of considerable commerce, its inhabitants including a number of Calicut Banyans and Oriental Christians. The ruler of the city tried to entrap da Gama (or so the Portuguese navigator imagined), and with this began a series of campaigns which gave full force to its Swahili name Mvita (war). The principal incidents are the capture and burning of the place by Almeida (1505), Nuno da Cunha (1529), and Duarte de Menezes (1587)—this last as a revenge for its submission to the sultan of Constantinople—the revolt and flight (1631) of Yusuf ibn Ahmed (who murdered all the Portuguese in the town—over ioo), and the three-years' siege by the imam of Oman 1696-98 (the garrison being reduced to eleven men and two women), ending in the expulsion of the Portuguese. From March 12, 1728 to Nov. 29, 2729 a Portuguese force from Goa again held Mombasa, when they were finally driven out by the Muscat Arabs. In Dec. 1823 the Mazrui family, who had ruled in Mombasa from the early part of the 18th century, first as representatives of Oman, afterwards as practically independent princes, placed the city under British protection; and in Feb. 1824 Lieut. J. J. Reitz was appointed commandant or resident at the city by Captain (afterwards Vice-Admiral) W. F. W. Owen. Reitz, after whom Port Reitz (a deep ramification of the sea opposite Kilindini) is named, died at Mombasa either in 1824 or 1825. The protector ate was repudiated by the British government, which left the place to be bombarded and captured by Seyyid Said of Oman, who made repeated attacks between 1829 and 1833, and only got possession in 1837 by treachery. Said thereafter made Zanzibar his capital, Mombasa becoming of secondary importance. A revolt against Zanzibar in 1875 was put down with British assistance. The British government in the following year vetoed a proposal by the khedive Ismail to annex Mombasa and its hinterland up to the equatorial lakes to Egypt—a project which originated with Gen eral C. G. Gordon, when that officer administered the Upper Nile provinces. In 1887 the city was handed over by the sultan of Zanzibar to the British for administration. It became the capital of the East Africa protectorate (Kenya Colony). In 1907, how ever, the seat of the central government was removed to Nairobi. From 1921 till his death in 1927 Mombasa was the residence of Seyyid Khalid the two-days' sultan of Zanzibar. Mombasa still forms part of the sultanate of Zanzibar and is included in Kenya protectorate as distinct from Kenya colony. See ZANZIBAR and KENYA COLONY.