Half day tour of Mombasa

Trip Start Nov 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 13, 2012

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11, 2012 Sunday

Mombasa – Half Day City Tour

Today we went on a city tour of Mombasa. Left at 8 am on an a/c coach. Having the a/c made it so much more enjoyable for wimpy me (K). We started at the Old Port of Mombasa and learned a little about the history. The buildings in the Old Port date back to the 8th Century. Our guide pointed out how the carving on the building doors were clues as to the nationalities of the inhabitants. Mombasa then and now serves as the major African port on the Indian Ocean. It is the main entry and exit point for goods serving the vast interior of East Africa. Arabs ruled Mombasa for many years and as a result, 70% of its current residents are Muslim. For all of Kenya, it is just the reverse but with Christianity. We visited the main market full of individual stalls with every imaginable food, and some that you probably can't imagine. Agriculturally, Kenya is a fertile country, especially in the Great Rift Valley, producing a wide variety of foods, also flowers, for export. I wanted so badly to buy a bag of the fresh roasted and salted cashews but honestly since my little bout of Mao-Mao’s Revenge, I am just not willing to take a chance on local food. So unfortunately, there won’t be any stories this time about us eating things like deep-fried scorpion as we did in China. The colors and smells of the bazaar reminded me so much of the Egyptian markets, but the poverty and filthy conditions here are so much worse. In general the people here seem very friendly toward us. They often mistake me for British and when I say America, then they almost all say "ohhh, Obama, Obama!"

After the markets, we visited the Woodcarvers Cooperative. There are over 4,000 men who belong to this co-op. The working conditions were horrible, dirty, shanty-like structures, chipping and carving various kinds of wood into artistic creations that represent Kenya to the tourist trade. Wooden giraffes, lions, elephants, other game animals, African warriors, bowls, plaques, even some jewelry. They present their finished product to a review board. If it passes muster, it is made available for sale by the Co-op to curio and gift shops throughout Kenya. The carver pays a percentage of the sale price to the co-op. They keep the carver’s earnings on the books. The carver can withdraw funds for his own use as needed and to buy additional pieces of wood that the co-op purchases in bulk. Most leave some funds in their account to accumulate. Once they accumulate a certain amount, the carver can apply for a loan to buy something like a car or a house. The loan interest rate is 15%. We’ve been told that the average annual wage for Kenya is something like $350 or $450 per year. Jack was able to buy a small piece of ebony wood from one of the carvers to take home with him. (J) I’m not sure how I am going to be able to use the wood just yet. I noticed that most carvers using ebony were either using little ax like (adz) things since the wood is so hard. When we first entered the carving area I was bound and determined to find some wood I could take back with me for carving. I asked at a couple of “shops” as we went and one person was going to find me a piece of Rosewood. He found me at the end of the tour, but brought me a huge piece of wood that was about 8” thick and about 15” long. I would have loved to have it, but there was no way I would ever be able to get that into my luggage and at that point we were leaving and no more time to find a smaller piece of wood. As Kathy had mentioned I ended up with a piece of ebony about 2.5” thick and about 5” long. Got it for $2. I’ll figure out something to make with it even if it is only cutting off slices to use for bases on other projects. Ha. This part of the trip made my day!!

(J) After our tour, we came back for another restful afternoon at the resort pool.  We also walked down to the beach and took a swim in the Indian Ocean. I have never felt water so warm as it was, even much warmer than Hawaii and Indonesian waters! Of course we had to make our way through the hordes of vendors between the hotel and the water, but we are getting used to that and it really doesn’t bother us all that much anymore, even though they can be very persistent. (K)The hotel is such a contrast to the sights and sounds and smells of the city.  We live in such luxury back in the good ole USA compared to millions of people around the world. How lucky we are!  Tomorrow we leave for Nairobi for the first leg of our return trip back to the States.  Another long day in store for us that could come up to nearly 36 hours before we get home. Also tomorrow evening before we head to the airport we will have dinner at the Canrivore Restaurant. Our plane doesn’t leave for Amsterdam until about 10:55 at night!
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Laura on

What interesting photos in the woodcarving "factory"! It is helpful to see how items I've seen in the stores are made. It is incredible that they are sold for so little...for so much work.

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