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Old Town Mombasa

Old Town, Mombasa, Kenya
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New Door, Old Town Mombasa  Kenya

New Door, Old Town

The wooden doors of Mombasa's Old Town are famous for their intricate designs: laboriously carved and painstakingly detailed. They're a testament to the rich tastes of the Swahili sultanate that once controlled the ports along the East African coast, and controlled access to the resources (including ivory and slaves) just beyond.

This door - right in the middle of Old Town, on a street lined with carved wooden door after carved wooden door - is a testament to a different kind of taste. We might even consider it garish among the atmospheric, dilapidated lanes of Old Town Mombasa, but who knows. Back during the era of the Swahili empire, neighbors might have found the latest wooden carvings and entrance adornments just as over-the-top.

To reach the entrance to Old Town (and come across this shop, in case you're looking for soda, film or cell phone credit as opposed to souvenirs), take a taxi to Fort Jesus and take a left down Sir Mbarak Hinawy Road. The shop is nestled among centuries-old mosques, dwellings, and yes, beautifully carved doors.