About Kenya

KENYA TRAVEL INFORMATION

GETTING INTO KENYA

Kenya is readily accessed from Europe, USA, the Middle East, Australia and all over Africa through three international airports at Nairobi, Mombsa and Eldoret.

The National Carrier Kenya Airways is of high repute internationally and has consistently been voted the Most Promising African Airline by the Aviation and Allied Business Update, the premier aviation industry journal.

There are also many other international airlines frequenting the airports. Filming crews and artists can get into the country using a Visitor's Pass after issuance of the filming permit. When departing, one needs to be at the airport 2 hours to flight time to allow for check in procedures. Airport Tax is included in the return ticket therefore one need not pay at the counter.

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GETTING AROUND

While many flights are highly booked during the high season, flying is a relatively safe and cheap way to cover a lot of ground. It is always advisable to buy tickets in advance. Chartered flights especially to Game Reserves and Parks can be arranged.

Trains are a luxuriant way to travel, with comfortable beds and meals and even fresh water in the First Class compartments. The 2nd Class coaches are also comfortable, of course without the pampering. 3rd class coaches offer just seat space if one is lucky enough to get a seat. Despite that, trains are the safest way to travel on land.

Taxis are available at designated spots especially outside hotels, restaurants, and residential areas, shopping malls, at the airport and within the City Center.

Though a bit expensive, they are the safest way to travel especially at night. One needs to negotiate the prices since most of them are not metered.

  • Buses: These are comfortable, reliable and fairly cheap. They cover the major towns but they are quite slow. Buy tickets in advance. City buses are 'Bus Tracks','City Hoppas' and 'Metro Shuttle' Car hire is a relatively expensive but gives one the freedom of movement and is sometimes the only way of getting to remote reaches. The Kenyan roads are generally of good condition and there are many agencies in the major towns that hire cars at approximately $85-100 a day and $125-150 for a 4-wheel drive car.
  • Driving: If bringing own car, get a three month permit at the border on entry as long as you have a valid 'Carnet de Passage' of it. Kenyans drive on the left and there is good quality petrol at reasonable prices.
  • Matatus: Are the most common means of traveling. They are usually minibuses, vans commonly called 'Nissans' and box matatus. Matatus leave from designated spots called 'Stages' though one can be flagged down en-route by sticking out ones arm with the palm down. Generally the road network is more extensive than anywhere else in Africa.

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LANGUAGE

English is the official language and Kiswahili the national language though one will often hear the indigenous languages being spoken by the people.

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TIME

Single time zone. To the GMT one adds 3hrs. Since it is at the Equator, it has an almost equal length of days and nights.

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HOTEL, ACCOMMODATION AND CONFERENCE FACILITIES

There's a wide choice of accommodation available all over the country to fit any budget, taste and preference. From five star luxury hotels to tented camps in the bush, to pitching your own canvas under the African sky, the possibilities are endless.

Most National Parks and Game Reserves have camp grounds and basic facilities. Tented camps with large walk-in tents, beds and furniture offer more comfort in the bush though lodges, which blend with the environment have standards varying from rustic to modern.

The major towns have hotels to suit most budgets and tastes and there are rental homes, apartments, cottages and home stays where one can experience the real Kenyan life first hand. Most hotels, lodges, resorts and tented camps offer conference facilities.

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FOOD AND WATER

Kenyan food is excellent and especially in the major towns, dishes are of international standards.

However there are all types of cuisines from around the world, ranging from English, to Chinese, French and of course the local traditional dishes. NOT to be missed is "Mukimo" (Kienyeji/irio) made from maize, beans, potatoes, and greens fried in onions. 'Ugali' a pasty substance made from white maize meal and usually eaten with 'Nyama Choma' - meat barbecued over charcoal, or with A breakfast in the bush‘Mboga’ (vegetables) Other local delicacies are ‘Chapati’ (fried bread), ‘Samosa’ (minced meat in dough triangles), Kebabs and Rice‘Pilau’.

There's also excellent Indian food and lots of fresh fruits and snacks. Water in the major towns is safe to drink. Food, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables are generally safe to eat.

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TAXES

Kenya levies sales taxes on selected items including most luxury goods and services. Generally, tax is included in the ticket price. Departure tax of US$ 20 is imposed at the airport but is mainly included in the return ticket price. Service charge is often included in restaurant and hotel bills.

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CURRENCY AND FOREIGN EXCHANGE

The official Kenyan currency is the Kenyan shilling (KES). Bank notes are issued in the denominations of Kshs. 1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are available in Kshs 40, 20, 10, 5, 1 and 50cts. There is no limitation on the amount of currency one can carry into the country. Foreign currency should be changed at Banks, Bureau de Change, or authorized hotels. There are also 24hr Forex Services at the airports. Travelers Cheques and credit cards are widely accepted in most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and safari companies. Foreign exchange rates are reflected daily.

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BANKING

There are many local and international banks of high repute. Banks generally open from 9.00a.m to 3.00pm on weekdays i.e. Monday - Friday. Some branches are open on Saturdays from 9.00 a.m -11.00 a.m and most are equipped with 24hr ATMS. Bank branches at airports run 24hr forex services.

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COMMUNICATION

The country code is +254 and the Satellite Earth Station - 4 Intel Sat. Post Offices offer good local and International services. Hours of service are 0800hrs - 1700hrs from Monday to Friday. EMS services are also available at cheap rates.

There are quite a number of ISP'S and the major towns have many cyber cafes with Sat connections and reasonable rates. The Telecommunications sector is well established in Kenya. The Telecommunication Services provided by Telkom Kenya provide international direct dialing, subscriber trunk dialing, telex, facsimile, data communication and related services. Currently, there are two mobile services provides.

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ELECTRICITY

The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240v 50hz Plugs are usually 3-point square. Voltage and plug adaptors should be bought/brought for cameras, chargers, hair dryers and razors.

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WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

The weight system in use is Kilograms (Kgs) and Grams (gms).

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HEALTH

Health facilities are adequate in major cities and towns. Doctors often request cash payments. One is advised to organize for overseas supplements for health insurance. If not sure where to find medical help, check out with the nearestinternational hotel.

  • Malaria: Except for Nairobi and the high attitude area, Malaria is quite prevalent in Kenya with the predominant species being P. Faciparum. Taking an appropriate drug regiment is advisable. Use of anti-mosquito measures such as repellants and mosquito nets especially when out in the open at night is encouraged.
  • Narcotics are illegal in Kenya and possession is a criminal charge. Rugged Terrain of Northern Kenya Vaccination against other contactable diseases is advisable.
  • Emergencies: Police/Ambulance 999 St. Johns Ambulance 254 20 22 40 66 AMREF 254 20 50 12 80

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INSURANCE

Filmmakers are required to fully insure their crew and equipment before they can be licensed to operate in the country. There are a number of reputable companies offering a wide range of insurance services.

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RECREATION

There are many fun spots in Kenya all week round especially in the major towns. To keep up on festivals, concerts, sports and tournaments, check out the daily newspapers. The Daily Nation www.nationaudio.com and The Standard www.eastandard.com on the web have leisure and entertainment sections.

There are many pubs and clubs with live bands, folklore shows and Christian functions going on at any time in the cities. Kenyans are a very sociable and fun loving people and fun festivals are known to sprout out anywhere, anytime.

The country has numerous world class golf courses, football pitches and basketball courts. Groups can always organize for excursions and retreats in public parks. Auto racing, rallying (the Safari Rally), cricket, martial arts clubs, health clubs and gyms are plentiful.

Kenyan musicians are quickly coming up in the music industry and there are many local jigs going on.

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SECURITY AND SAFETY

Crime is not common in rural areas. Taking precautions though reduces the risks drastically. Violent crime is rare even in Nairobi. Luggage is usually safe in the hotel rooms.

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EMERGENCY NUMBERS

  • Police CID 020 2728888
  • Police Headquarters 020240000
  • Telephone operator
    Local 900
    International Operator assistance 0195/0196

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SHOPPING

Shopping can be a lot of fun and in most shops, bargaining is a must, mostly as a game and a form of entertainment. Of interest are the City Market, the Maasai Market and the little shops by theroadsides. If you are not the haggling type, there are other places with fixed prices that offer the advantage of use of credit cards and shipping your stuff for you. There are many curio shops in the towns, modern shopping Malls, markets and well-stocked supermarkets and shops for your every need.

For more info Brochures, maps and other filming information please contact:

  • Kenya Tourist Board P.O Box 30630, Nairobi Tel: 254-20719924,719927, 719928 Fax: 254-2-719925 Email: info@kenyatourism.org Web: www.magicalkenya.com
  • Ministry of Information and Communications P.O Box 30027, Nairobi Tel: 254-2331030 Fax: 254-2-217604

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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

  • 1st January - New year
  • March/April - Good Friday
  • March/April - Easter Monday
  • 1st May - Labour Day
  • 1st June - Madaraka day
  • 10th October - Moi day
  • 20th October - Kenyatta day
  • 12th December - Jamhuri day
  • 25th December - Christmas day
  • 26th December - Boxing day
  • Depending on new moon sighting - Idd ul Fitr

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WILDLIFE

Kenya has long been known as Africa's home of the 'Big Five': Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo. The 55 National parks, game reserves and private sanctuaries all give a good sighting of game and marine animals in their natural environment.

The Maasai Mara at Kenya's South West is widely considered Africa's greatest wildlife reserve. It comprises 200 sq miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forest contiguous with Tanzania's Serengeti. Each year from July- October, Mara plays host to the greatest natural spectacle, The Great Wildebeest migration from the Serengeti in Tanzania as they follow the rains. The Tsavo East and West National Parks form one of Africa's largest wilderness reserve, consisting of 10million acres of pure wilderness. The Tsavo is home to the legendary Man-Eater Lions that preyed on the railway workers in 1899.

Shaba is the place where Joy Adamson, author of the bestseller book 'Born free' which was also an academy winning film, spent her final years. It is the subject of her final book 'Queen of Shaba' and more recently, location of the Reality TV series 'Survivor Africa' and 'To Walk With the Lions'. The culture comes alive Meru, the wild country where the famous lioness Elsa of 'Born free' film was released is an isolated, unspoilt verdant paradise offering the challenging but rewarding game tracking.

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CULTURE

Since 2500 BC when the Nilotes and Bantus first settled in Kenya, migration cycles have led to Kenya being a meeting place fordifferent people and cultures.

This has led to diverse cultures evolving, with the country now having 42 main ethnic groups, all with countless languages and dialects.

Kenya is therefore a country that has the ability to draw from these influences and blend the best of many worlds into a strong singular identity. Kenyans remain a peaceful and proud people despite this diversity.

From the strongly independent Maasai who still value tradition and ritual as they share the Mara plains with the hunting lions, to the Samburu in the North with their herds and flocks still untouched by the West, through the medieval streets of Lamu and Mombasa Old Town where life has continued unhurried for more than 400 years, it is a variety of cultures and life-styles.

The coastal culture, as unique and rewarding as their Swahili cuisine, the enclosed Maasai villages in the south, the Mt. Kenya communities, the Luo fishermen in L. Victoria, the Samburu Warriors in the North, the nomadic Boranas and the Kamba carvers, these are all cultures to spice up any production.

The Bomas of Kenya Ltd offers Kenya in miniature form. Situated 10km North of the Nairobi City Centre, and about 1km past the main entrance to Nairobi National Park, Bomas of Kenya lets one see the wonderful diversity of cultures that make up this fascinating country.

It is a cultural, conference and entertainment centre with a crosssection of different Kenyan traditional dancers available for hire.

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SPECIAL INTERESTS, SPORTS and ADVENTURE

No matter how unusual or specific ones interest is, Kenya literally has something for everyone. It therefore promises a filmmaker the assurance of seeing and having what he wants, where he wants it A Balloon Safari over the park and when he wants it. Be it bird watching or visiting museums and historical sites, all the way from Fort Jesus in Mombasa to the Gedi ruins in Malindi, through lorgesaille in Magadi to Nairobi's NationalMuseum and Leakey digs on the shores of L. Turkana; elephant watching in the Amboseli where one is introduced to a single herd individual by individual, fishing, mountain climbing, scuba diving, bungee jumping, agriculture or even ballooning over the herds in Tsavo West, or Maasai Mara, Kenya is definitely that magical place that will bring your every dream location to reality.

Kenya is homeland to world-renowned Olympic and Commonwealth athletics champions. There is always plenty going on sport wise at any time in any part of the country.

There are many high altitude-training camps and also of interest is the annual Lewa Marathon through the wilderness. There are also many rugby and football tournaments throughout the year.

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GEOGRAPHY

Kenya is situated in East Africa, from latitude 4°N to 4°S longitudes 34°E and 41°E. She's flanked to the West by Uganda and the East by Somalia.

To her North is Ethiopia, to the North West is Sudan, on the South is Tanzania and to the South East is the Indian Ocean.

The country is bisected from North to South by the Great Rift Valley and from East to West by the Equator. It covers an area of 582.647 sq km, and has a population of more than 28 million people.

Kenya is a Republic with its capital in Nairobi. Kiswahili is the national language and English is the official language spoken, though the indigenous languages of Bantu, Nilotic or Cushitic origin are common.

Kenya has an international reputation for its classic East African beauty and is one of the most geographically diverse countries on earth.

Its landscape stretches from sea level to 5,799m on the snow capped Mt. Kenya and there are vast expanses of Savannah, highland ranges, equatorial rainforests, exotic volcanoes, a series of fresh water and soda lake, alpine glaciers, and deserts, tropical beaches, cosmopolitan cities, big game, timeless cultures, cool highland retreats, an exotic history, a fascinating modern culture and endless, endless opportunities for adventure, discovery and relaxation............ And all these within the borders of one country. Kenya is administratively divided into eight provinces.

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NAIROBI

Nairobi is the Maasai term meaning 'a place of sweet waters'. This is the smallest province and comprises of the cosmopolitan city of Nairobi, which is also the capital city.

It hosts the financial, political and administrative capitals and the diplomatic missions, embassies and trade offices of many countries. It is an international business and tourist centre with a wide range of facilities.

It is situated just south of the Equator and of the Kenyan highlands and is famous for its National park, barely 20 minutes from the city centre.

It also has the biggest airport in East and Central Africa, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and outside the city limits, residential areas sprawl for many kilometers with houses ranging from handsome mansions on well-spaced grounds to crowded rows of massionettes to blocks of flats to low cost housing.

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CENTRAL

The province is found around the central highlands region, which provide excellent conditions for many types of vegetation.

This is due to the rich volcanic soils, the cool temperatures and the good rainfall received in the region. It is also a source of many rivers including the Tana, the largest river in Kenya.

The main economic activity is small scale farming: subsistence, dairy farming and cash crops such as coffee and tea. Its headquarters is in Nyeri, a town between the Aberdares and the Mt. Kenya highlands.

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EASTERN

It stretches from the Ethiopian border in the North to the Savannah that comprises the Tsavo.

It is probably the most diverse in landscape ranging from near desert in the north where the nomadic tribes of Samburu, El-molo, Rendille and Gabbra live through the highland slopes of Mt.Kenya where the Meru and Embu live to the large expanses of grassland in the south, home to the Kamba and the Maasai.

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RIFT VALLEY

This is the largest province in the country stretching from the Sudanese to the Tanzanian border in the South. It gets its name from Snow capped Mt. Kenya at the Equator the Great Rift Valley, which is the main feature in this area.

The valley floor has various volcanic formations and lakes with the largest being L. Turkana in the northwest.

Fertile volcanic soils are abundant hence agricultural productivity is high especially in the well-watered regions. Also spectacular in the province is Lake Magadi in the south where trona forms a cake-like substance, as solid as ground, on the surface.

The province has some of the most scenic sites and some of the most unique cultures with the Samburu, Turkana and Pokot in the North, the Kalenjin in the middle and the famous Maasai in the South. It has its headquarters in Nakuru.

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WESTERN

Situated on the western part of Kenya, above lake Victoria. It borders Uganda to the west and the Rift valley Province to the east. The highlands around Mt. Elgon are ideal for various crops and agriculture is the mainstay of the economy with such crops as maize, sugarcane, millet and sorghum being grown.

The area has thick bamboo forests that have an abundance of black and white Columbus monkeys, large softwood plantations, timber mills and papermaking factories, the largest in Africa being located here (Webuye Panpaer Mills). It has its head quarters in Kakamega.

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NYANZA

It is the province where the largest fresh water lake in Africa, Lake Victoria, is located.

The province is home to the famous Luo fishermen and the main economic activity is fishing and boat building.

Also in the province are the Kisii Highlands, which probably gets more thunderstorms than any other place on earth.

The region is the most densely populated rural area. Its head quarters is Kisumu City, the 3rd largest city in the country.

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NORTH EASTERN

This lies to the Eastern part of the country, bordering the Somali Republic to the east, coast province to the south and Eastern Province to the west. A large portion of this province is either arid or semi-arid, with the dry season persisting for most part of the year.

The inhabitants are mainly nomadic tribes, mainly the Somali. They rely on honey and milk and meat from their camels, cattle, sheep and goats. It's a vast, scantly populated area of low agricultural productivity.

The Tana River passing through this region has a tremendous effect on the climate, settlement patterns and economic activities. It has its head quarters in Garissa Town.

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COAST

This is on the Indian Ocean strip with Mombasa as its head quarters. It is lined with beautiful sandy beaches that stretch on for kilometers on end, coral cliffs and thick mangrove forests that are sacred to the local people.

The province has some of the most famous tourist hotels and resorts in Africa and coconut, cashew nut, sisal, mangoes, pineapple and mangroves line the roads. It is inhabited by the Swahili, Pokomo and Mijikenda people among others.

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TERRAIN and VEGETATION

From 0m at ocean level, to the snow capped peaks of Mt. Kenya at 5,199m, Kenya's terrain uses from low plains, a tropical coastline to the central volcanic highlands, bisected by the Great Rift Valley. Divided into two parts by the Equator, the northern part is mainly desert.

There are many river and lake basins, hills, escarpments and rugged cliffs. The north has patches of desert vegetation comprising of giant cacti and euphorbia.

The south is sprinkled with a series of canyons formed by dry riverbeds and sand dunes. Vegetation includes coastal and lowland forests, savannahs with their grasslands and scattered acacias and baobabs, thick rainforests on mountain slopes and even an alpine zone.

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CLIMATE

Kenya, being found at the Equator, is generally hot, with an equatorial type of climate.

It has the characteristic East African climate, with two rainy seasons, the short rains being from Mid- October to Mid-December and the long rains being from Mid-March to Mid-May. Climatic conditions though vary from tropical along the coast to arid in the interior with the presence of the sea, the lakes and the mountains being of major influence.

The weather is generally dry with warm days and cold nights. Highlands have the coolest range of temperatures while the northern desert country is the warmest region.

Being an equatorial country, there is little variation in temperatures throughout the year. However, among the regions, there are great differences in average temperatures and rainfall due to winds and attitude differences.

The rainfall pattern is important because of its influence on wildlife and weather conditions. Temperatures are high in the months corresponding to the boreal winter i.e.. Jan, Feb and March

Months
Max temp
Min Temp
Jan - Mar
79
57
April - June
75
50
July - Sep
75
52
Oct - Dec
76
56

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TRANSPORT

There are many ports and harbours with the major ones being Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu. Mombasa is linked to all major ports in the world.

The flying time to Nairobi From Europe - 8 - 10 hrs N. America - 16hrs Gulf - 4 hrs Far East, Australia - 16hrs

There are three international airports at Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret.

Wilson Airport in Nairobi, which handles light aircraft, is one of the busiest in Africa.

The country has an extensive road network connecting most parts of the country. All major commercial centers are connected by paved roads. Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire have established the Northern Corridor Transport Agreement to transport goods from Mombasa Port along the Mombasa - Nairobi - Kisumu Highway.

There is a single railway system from Mombasa through Nairobi to Uganda with branches to Nanyuki, Kitale and Kisumu. Another branch leads to Tanzania through Taveta.

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COMMUNICATION

Mobile phone communication and internet have made major leaps in the country. Trunks are primarily Microwave Radio Relay; business data is commonly transferred by a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) system.

There are many radio broadcast stations, 24AM, 18FM, and 6 Short Wave.

There are 8 local TV stations, and several internet service providers.

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CITIES

Though most of the country is rural agricultural land, there are a number of thoroughly modern cities.

These are:

  • Nairobi: Founded in the late 1890's as an administrative centre for the British protectorate, it has grown to be a large city of more than 2million people and is the capital city with the most modern facilities in communication, transport, leisure and entertainment and some of the best hotels and restaurants in the world. Its the headquarters of the UNEP and recently has played host to a number of peace negotiations in Africa.
  • Mombasa: A port town on the East African Coast founded in the late 12th century when the Arabs came to the coast. It is the second largest city in Kenya. And it is a major port receiving vessels from around the world. It is situated on the mainland of Nyali, surrounded by deep waters that make it a natural harbour.
  • Kisumu: It is situated on L. Victoria, a lake in Western Kenya that is shared by Uganda and Tanzania and is the sources of the Great River Nile. It is a business and transportation hub and the main town in the Western Highlands. In 1901, it became an administrative centre of the area, with the completion of the railway line from Mombasa and for decades was the hub of transport activity between the Coast, Uganda and West Tanganyika.

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