1. A Kikoy
A kikoy is a rectangular piece of cloth made from cotton. It originated from the native tribes along the East African coast who used to wrap it over their bodies to ward off the arid temperatures at the coast. Kikoy is a Swahili word for ‘something used as a wrap’. People, therefore, use it for many purposes like a beach towel, a scarf when it gets cold at night, a head wrap, or even as a baby wrap. Nowadays, the kikoy is also featuring in new fashion styles outside Africa. In Mombasa, kikoys are very common and can be found in almost any shop.
2. A Maasai Shuka
Another piece of local traditional clothing that is a must-have from Kenya. The Maasai shuka is the traditional wear for the Maasai who live along the Rift Valley areas in Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai are very proud of their shuka and you can find some walking around fashionably garbed only in these shukas along with a traditional walking stick. The stick was originally carried by the Maasai men to scare off wild animals but it is now better recognized as a symbol of wisdom in the tribe. It is always an intriguing sight that turns many heads. The shukas come in many colors, red being the commonest.
3. A Kiondo
A kiondo is an African bag that is skillfully made out of sisal making it resistant to water and tear. This also makes the kiondo bags very multipurpose. They can be used as shopping bags to carry food, clothes, or any other accessories. They are also carried as fashionable handbags since they come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. The people who specialize in weaving these unique bags are the Kikuyu and Kamba tribeswomen from the rural villages of Machakos in Kenya. The bags are so popular though that they sold in many places including most of the shops in Mombasa.
4. African Jewelry
There are diverse options of African jewelry to pick from for as memorable souvenirs. Mombasa being a popular tourist stop, has a number of shops and markets selling all sorts of African jewelry pieces. There are necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets, and several other jewelry items. The jewelry is made from different local materials like seeds, bones, shells and elephant hair is sometimes used to make threads. The pieces are usually made in a beautiful combination of bright colors but you can always find something unique of your choice. Many shops in the Mombasa Old Town have these African accessories at friendly prices.
5. Dira Dresses
This is one of the most comfortable types of dresses you will ever find in the world. The dira dresses are made of a very soft cotton material which enables them to offer comfort in hot or cold weather. They are all mostly foot long and flabby in width. Hence one size can usually be pulled off by people of various body sizes. It is the kind of dress you can quickly put on during a lazy day at home or on a cool day out. Most diras come along with a scarf in the same design as the dress. You can get them in various markets in Mombasa.
6. Tsavorite Gemstones
The tsavorite gemstone is definitely a wonderful little souvenir to take back home. It is considered to be the world’s finest green gemstone, competing with emeralds. Tsavorites were discovered near the Tsavo National Park south of Kenya and this is how they got their name. Mombasa being very close to Tsavo, easily gets big supplies of the tsavorite gems in its shops. There are a number of shops along Moi Avenue dealing in these gems plus others scattered around Mombasa. Tsavorite gemstones are rare and it is hard to find big ones. They generally range between one and three carats.
7. Kenyan Sculptures
The sculpture business is vibrant in Mombasa presenting tourists with more options for souvenirs. There are sculptures carved out of ebony wood by the Kamba natives of Kenya. The carvings mostly depict the animals and people of Kenya. Besides ebony, there are soapstone sculptures too. These are fabricated in more abstract shapes that capture the imaginative mind. The sculptures make great decorations for homes. Find these at the Akamba wood carvers market near the Mombasa airport, Coast Zanzibar Curio Shop on Moi Avenue, at the Maasai market, Nyali shopping mall as well as other shops around Mombasa. The prices vary from place to place.
8. Akala Sandals
Akala sandals are very good gifts and souvenirs to take along from Mombasa. They are also good to have the moment you reach Mombasa as they can make your walking tours through the town more comfortable in the hot weather. The sandals are crafted from old tires put together with small nails and sometimes colorful pieces of cloth. You can choose from numerous designs of the sandals. There are sandals made to suit both men and women in addition to smaller cute sizes for children. The akala sandals are available in many shops and markets around Mombasa with prices ranging from 300 Kenya shillings and up.
9. Crafted Masks
Crafted masks are also interesting souvenirs to pick from Mombasa. The masks are sculpted out of different types of wood. They are made in various face shapes and expressions to depict African people and their culture. The Akamba ethnic group from the arid Eastern regions of Kenya deliver some of the best artistic mask pieces. These masks can be hung on walls or worn on occasions like Halloween. It is easy to find interesting masks in many craft shops in the Old town of Mombasa, on Biashara street, Moi Avenue along with the Maasai market held at Nyali Mall on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
10. A Kanga or Leso
Kangas also known as lesos are Swahili traditional garments. They are rectangular in shape and usually used as scarfs or head wraps. Almost similar to the kikoy but these are lighter in material compared to the kikoy and shuka. The kangas also come with a printed Swahili saying or proverb. The words are always printed along the border of the kanga. The shopkeepers can translate the words on the kangas for you so that you can choose a design and meaning that pleases you. The extra words on the lesos make them a very thoughtful gift or souvenir to get from Mombasa.