For a port in this part of the world, Mombassa has great life. The land rears up in places, and palm trees hang together, as if watching for incoming ships. Small canoes and larger ships come and go; trade moves from the Ottomans and Egyptians up north, and among the Africans on the coast.
Some of the local Muslim traders came today to share food and discuss business. While we ate, they shared stories of old Mombassa, and how it came to be this large. Malindi was the Portuguese outpost in this region for some hundred years; the Portuguese decamped from there, and moved down the coast to the port of Mombassa.
From isle to isle our trading vessels roam,
Mozambique’s harbour our commodious home.
If then your sails for India’s shore expand,
For sultry Ganges or Hydaspes’ strand,
Here shall you find a pilot skill’d to guide
Through all the dangers of the perilous tide
These men know the waters around their home, and my ship is but a visitor. The Portuguese try to squeeze this coast, but it will wriggle free any way it can, like silverfish in an old net.