‘M’ is for Mombasa

Mombasa Tusks, PostkartenProject

The blue ink on this postcard has started to fade and bleed making it difficult to read. Some stamp collector/spend thrift has steamed off the large stamp on the right hand corner. The postcard seems to be from the 1950s, the bright colours in the postcard remind me of the old American Technicolor films I used to watch as a kid. It reads,

“The warm seas of the Indian Ocean are driving away the trail vestiges of the UK hostilities. We are staying literally 25 yards from a spectacular beach which really has white sands. In the garden avocados, bananas, paw paw and flame trees of thika grow in abundance. Out of the trees appear baboons, colobus monkeys and bush babies. The girls have been bare back camel riding = uncomfortable by all accounts!

Wish you were here,



Mombasa is an island city set in a deep natural harbour on the Indian Ocean and is the major seaport of Kenya. Mombasa’s Kilindini port facility is the best equipped on the East African coast and was the trading center for many centuries. It has a checkered history and has passed through the hands of different ruling empires from the Arabs, Portugese and the British. The exact founding date of the city is unknown but is suggested to be 900 A.D. By the 12th Century it had grown into a prosperous trading town. Mombasa acted as a key port in the complex Indian Ocean trading network.

The Arab influence on Mombasa has been significant. Arab traders were known to sail down around to the Kenya coast from the first century AD onwards resulting in trade flourishing along the coast.  The British took control of Mombasa in 1895, after the sultan of Zanzibar leased the town to the British.  The British East African Protectorate was established, and promoted European colonization of Kenya lands and resources.  The center of its trade lay in spices, gold and ivory trading with countries as far as India and China. 

The Mombasa “Tusks” made of aluminum, appear like elephant ivory breeching from the ground to arch over the town’s entrance to spell out the letter ‘M’. Ivory was considered to be a valuable commodity. The structure was built in commemoration when Queen Elizabeth visited Mombasa in 1952. The Mombasa tasks were created as a symbolic gesture of embracing the Queen and the British Empire into the town and within its social structure.  Nowadays the Mombasa Tusks are a bit neglected.  Adverts and fliers are posted on the tusks and there are stories of a beggar making a home in the hollow of the tusks.

The British rule officially ended when Kenya finally gained independence on the 12th December 1963. 

Give me an “M”.