From spices, wood carvings and antiques to handmade sandals, tailored clothing and woven sarongs, Mombasa is a great place to shop. Bargaining is a must in most places; shop around before you decide what you want and offer a price that you're prepared to pay. If buying several items from the same seller, discounts can be negotiated.
Kikois and Kangas
Kikois and kangas are brightly coloured woven sarongs (the former, for men) and wraps (the latter, for women). They come as a pair, one for the top half of the body and one for the bottom, and are marked with Swahili proverbs. Head to Biashara St, west of the Digo Rd intersection (just north of the spice market). You may need to bargain, but what you get is generally what you pay for – bank on about KSh600 for a pair of cheap kangas or a kikoi. Kofia (the handmade caps worn by Muslim men) are also crafted here; a really excellent one can cost up to KSh2500.
Mombasa has an incredible number of skilled tailors and you can have a safari suit or shirt custom-made in a day or two for no more than US$30. There are numerous tailors on Nehru Rd, behind the spice market. You can either buy some stylish printed fabric beforehand or have your tailor assist.
Wood Carvings and Masks
Sri Mbaraki Hinawy Rd in the Old Town is the place to search for true collectors' items, with a rich selection of antiques, masks and carvings, particularly from West and Central Africa.
Gifts & Souvenirs
For fair-trade gifts, the purchase of which empowers the residents of one enterprising Kenyan village, check out the Imani Collective in the Old Town. Run by a non-profit organisation, the Akamba Handicraft Industry Cooperative Society near the airport is a terrific place for all sorts of Kenyan crafts, from animal carvings and masks to polished calabash bowls and toys.
Saffron, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, curry powder from India…no visit to Mombasa is complete without a stop at the famous spice market. Prices aren't fixed, so start bargaining only once you're sure you want to buy something. You'll also likely be offered other kinds of 'spices', such as miraa (twigs and shoots that are chewed as a stimulant) and pan.