Mombasa mŏmbă´sə, –bä´sə [key], city (1990 est. pop. 537,000), capital of Coast prov., SE Kenya, mostly on Mombasa island in the Indian Ocean and partly on the mainland (with which it is connected by a causeway). It is Kenya's chief port and an important commercial and industrial center. Manufactures include processed food, cement, and glass. Oil is refined and tourism is also important. From the 8th to the 16th cent. Mombasa was a center of the Arab trade in ivory and slaves. The city was visited (1498) by Vasco da Gama on his first voyage to India. Mombasa was burned three times by the Portuguese. The Portuguese controlled the city until 1698, when it was regained by the Arabs; the Portuguese briefly held the city again in 1729. It came under Zanzibar in the mid-19th cent. and passed to Great Britain in 1887. Mombasa was the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate from 1887 to 1907. In the 21st cent., the city has become a center of militant Islamism in Kenya. Of note are the remains of Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in 1593–94. The city's extensive beaches and resorts attract thousands of tourists annually.
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