The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) has completed the construction of a Sh300 million waterfront recreational park in Mombasa adjacent to the historic Fort Jesus, a popular destination for foreign and local tourists.
The two-acre beachfront park along the edge of the Indian Ocean, is expected to revitalize the centuries-old Fort Jesus Museum that fuses unique African, Arabic, Persian and European styles.
The Fort Jesus Park will be an integrated urban picturesque destination for tourism, culture, festivals, dining and relaxation.
This is the second public landscaped waterfront in the coastal City after the Sh460 million scenic Mama Ngina Waterfront Park, formerly known as the Mama Ngina Drive, a seafront open public space.
The modern Waterfront park, which sits on a 26-acre beach plot facing the Likoni crossing channel, has been an iconic tourist attraction site before the coronavirus pandemic.
The project launched in 2019 by President Uhuru Kenyatta, promotes the City’s history, culture of the people and offers an ideal venue for festivals and other social events.
The Fort built by the Portuguese in 1596 was declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2011 and highlighted as one of the outstanding and well-preserved examples of 16th century Portuguese military fortifications.
Fort Jesus provides a fantastic history of the wars that took place between the British, Portuguese and the Omani Arabs, for control of the Kenyan Coast.
The modern waterfront recreational space, will add to the appeal of Mombasa as a world famous tourist resort and is located near the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The NMK Director General (DG), Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia, said the effort to build the seafront park took place immediately after the completion of a Sh497 million structurally sound seawall at the landmark Fort.
He said the concrete seawall designed to protect the Fort from coastal erosion and the State-of- the-Art recreational park is’ hoped to breathe new life into the ornate historical buildings’.
“The Park will be a place for leisure, resting, walking, outdoor cultural festivals and beach footballs,” he said.
“The Park will be playing host to local festivals and showcase Mombasa’s rich cultural heritage,” he went on.
Dr Kibunjia added that the scenic beachfront public park, will greatly enhance the appeal of Fort Jesus, as a world heritage site.
He said the outdoor space features a walkway, benches, a shaded structure and a bit of open space that will allow residents and visitors, to take a break and enjoy sea breeze of fresh air and relieve their souls.
Speaking during the inspection of the Park, the NMK Boss said the Park will be the centre of attraction to both the domestic and foreign visitors coming to marvel at the historic Fort Jesus.
Dr Kibunjia said the waterfront park is designed to provide a variety of public spaces for recreation and opportunities for the public to enjoy the waterfront location and special events, and appreciate the views of the ocean and the iconic Fort Jesus.
“We have completed the Park and now what remains is landscaping, planting of flowers, grass and other final beautification touches,” added the NMK Boss.
He assured the NMK, the State Corporation that manages museums, sites and monuments, was committed to protecting historical sites and monuments, as they are key in the promotion of the country’s heritage.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (Coast), Sam Ikwaye, said the waterfront facility will raise the profile of Mombasa and other tourist areas in the Coast Region and attract more international and local visitors.
Ikwaye said the waterfront was a milestone to the industry and that it would not only boost the number of tourists, but also spur business and other economic activities in the region.
The hotelier contends the new urban park, will make outdoor recreation more accessible drawing visitors from near and far, bringing tourism revenue to local restaurants, hotels, snack shops and stores.
“The new Green Park can host festivals, concerts and other social events thus bringing additional boosts to the local economy,” he said, adding that leisure activities at the Park will ensure the well-being of the people.
“The recreational facility will create job opportunities to those in the tourism related business, transporters and other entrepreneurs,” said Ikwaye.
He commended NMK and the National Government, for making good use of open spaces and initiating the project, saying the traditional tourism products such as beaches and safaris are becoming less attractive.
“The construction of the Park has been completed at the opportune time, as we expect an increased number of both local and foreign visitors during this holiday season, following encouraging hotel bookings and reservations,” he added.
He said the new facility is set to transform the tourism sector this festive season by attracting local and international tourists as it has unique facilities.
Ikwaye noted that the hospitality sector suffered the most, during the Covid-19 restrictions, as they had to contend with a drastic drop of visitors and booking cancellations.
He welcomed any important steps by the stakeholders to revive the tourism industry, after close to two years of being hit by the pandemic.
Mombasa and other coastal areas, are the preferred holiday destinations for many Kenyans and foreign visitors, to savor their beautiful sandy beaches stretched out from the South to the North coast and the tropical ambience.
By Mohamed Hassan