But it was also an era of strife between the Catholic Portuguese and the Muslim

But it was also an era of strife between the catholic

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But it was also an era of strife between the Catholic Portuguese and the Muslim Arabs. Portuguese hegemony was finally extinguished with the capture of Fort Jesus by the Arabs in 1699 just over a hundred years after it was built. The next hundred years was a miserable record of petty wars between the minor sultans and of maladministration by the Omani Arabs based in Muscat. Trade, except in slaves, came to a halt until an army was sent, in 1822, by the Sultan of Oman to crush the warring states and re- establish commercial activity. Some form of Arab government existed in what became known as the coastal strip until the region was declared a British sphere of influence following the treaty of Berlin in 1885. The town of Mombasa is built on an island. Less than a century ago the builders of what was then called the Uganda railway attached the island to the mainland by a causeway. To the north a new toll bridge spans Tudor Creek, with views of the old harbour, linking the town with the north coast beach resorts. On the south side a frequent car and passenger ferry service plies across Kilindini Creek, close to the entrance to the modern port area with its multitude of wharfs and deep water berths, carrying tourists to the spendid beaches of the south coast. Mombasa town itself is a mystical mixture of ancient and modern with a cosmopolitan population blending Africa, Arabia, Asia and Europe. The people who live in this old but vibrant gateway to Kenya and Africa now number almost 600,000.
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Fringing the dhow harbor is the old town, a maze of narrow streets and pedestrian lanes with quaint shuttered houses and open fronted shops. The smell of spices is always present. Dominating the entrance to the dhow harbor is Fort Jesus, which is open to visitors and which houses an interesting museum displaying antiquities from the length of the Kenya Coast. Also on display are finds from the Portuguese warship the Santa Antonio D'Atanna which sank near the fort in 1697 while attempting to raise the Arab seige. A wide array of African crafts and curios, together with some antiques, are available from shops and sidewalk vendors, but a shopping highlight is a visit to Biashara Street where the shops compete for the purchaser's eye, and his pocket, with dazzling displays of locally woven fabrics and prints. Visitors find a visit to the Kamba carvers village near the airport a worthwhile experience. Scores of carvers can be seen at work and one can follow the progress of a carving from log to the completed artistry. There is a shop selling the finished works. From Mombasa it is possible to make short excursions to many of the beach resorts or alternatively to seek the cool air of the Shimba Hills. There are several interesting archaeological sites nearby especially Jumba la Mtwana - the Slavemaster's house - a well- maintained ruin with one of four mosques although virtually intact slipping imperceptibly into the ocean. To reach Jumba you cross Mtwapa Creek where there is a substantial aquarium with an underwater viewing tunnel displaying sharks, rays and other fascinations from the nearby ocean.
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