With a history going back 2000 years, Mombasa is the oldest town in Kenya. Although the town is centred on an island about 4 km long and 7 km wide, it has now begun to sprawl on to the mainland. It owes its development to its location, for the island forms an ideal natural deep-water harbour. Today goods are sent from the port to not only Kenya but to Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan.
Mombasa has large communities of Indian and Arabic origin. It has the greatest concentration of Muslims in Kenya and their influence on the culture is strong. There are some ancient, Arab-inspired houses with elaborately carved doorways in narrow streets and passages, and a few other worthy distractions such as Fort Jesus and the city's most famous landmark: two pairs of crossed concrete elephant tusks created as a ceremonial arch to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1952. Despite these, Mombasa is not a terribly attractive place and rubbish here is quite a problem, as is the traffic and pollution. Most visitors do not stay in the town itself - the city's hotels are not especially nice - and instead stay in one of the beachside locations to the north or south of Mombasa and visit on a day trip. It is now linked by causeways to the mainland at three points as well as by the Likoni Ferry.