For most European travelers, Mombasa is the only major city in East Africa they ever see, as it’s the gateway to East Africa’s spectacular beaches. Half of all Kenya’s travelers come only for its beaches and never see a wild animal. At certain times during the year, there are more flights in and out of Mombasa each day than Nairobi.

This is Kenya’s second largest and oldest city. Technically an island, Mombasa was an Omani sultan seat until the Portuguese captured it in the 16th century. It’s an excellent deep-water port and now East Africa’s most important one. The culture and architecture of the city is an interesting hodge-podge of its former Portuguese, Indian, Arab and British colonists.

The city today has a very strong Arabic influence and downtown Mombasa could pass for an Arabic capital, with many crowded souks and most persons dressed in traditional Islamic style.