LIFE BY LOUIS: Memories of my first trip to Mombasa

A family strolls along the Nyali beach front in Mombasa. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

I wear all the mistakes and shame of my youth with pride, like a highly coveted prize.

I had barely enjoyed my third salary before I was sent for my first official assignment to Mombasa.

My excitement was profound. I had never been to Mombasa but I had heard stories galore about just how much happiness that small town had in store for young people.

As a first step, I passed by Man Kamaa and gave him my problem statement.

He disappeared briefly into his backyard store and resurfaced with three ugly flowery shirts and some handmade shorts that he gleefully renamed Brazilian beach shorts.

He also brokered a pair of sandals for me from his colleague, milking more money from me in the process.


Resplendent in the kind of gear that people clad in when boarding cruise ships or when heading to Bahamas for summer holidays, I boarded a bus at a terminus along River Road.

You would have been forgiven for thinking that I was like taking a flight to Heathrow airport.

So the following day, I completed the assignment in record time, bounced back into the hotel room and prepared myself for an evening of conquest.

To cool my nerves, I visited Kenyatta Beach. It was a bad decision as I got lost severally looking for space in the crowded piece of sand and I ended up getting conned into hiring swimming gear that I never got to use.

The sea front was packed with humanity in various forms of semi-nudity and my soul was not that strong therefore I left.

Back to the hotel, I wore my best clubbing outfit that was made up of a three quarters trousers, a baggy t-shirt and a baseball cap, all of them cheap imitations from Man Kamaa.

I had heard about a club called Casablanca but I was not sure about its location. I approached a security executive guarding the hotel and told him I was looking for a pharmacy that is located near a club called Casablanca.

Of course he didn’t know about the pharmacy but he knew where the club is located. Armed with the location, off I went.


It was getting dark and the club looked eerie with strobe lights and lots of coloured bulbs in the dark. I gingerly engaged the stairs, it was like walking through the straight and narrow path.

Once inside, I untucked my shirt and cut a more gangster look as I selected an isolated corner. The place was dark inside and still too early for the revellers.

There were hordes of business women located strategically facing the entry and taking note of all the new comers.

I was shaking with anxiety and youthful hormones, so I quickly retreated to the gents to compose myself and dab my face with water.


When I went back, a waitress was there to pick my order. I asked for a cold beverage and no glass.

I had heard stories of businesswomen putting rice into people’s beverages and then proceed to repossess all their earthly belongings. In some extreme cases, the private developers had been known to relieve their victims of their trousers and leave them in the street without any form of decency.  

A few brave business women joined a table near mine. I could literary feel a thin sweat trickling down my armpit. Soon they were discussing the client, I realised all of them were from my County and they spoke fluent my language. Their leader convinced them that I looked like a Westerner.

Those days I had lifted weights and I had a wide chest and bulging muscles like a person who survived on a staple diet of fish.

They gossiped about me endlessly thinking that I could not understand the language.

Their leaders must be the envy of corporate world strategists. She quickly summoned her colleague who hailed from the Western and instructed her to come and deal with this client from her County.

As she joined my table, I could as well have fainted and ended up on a drip in a level six hospital. She fielded, I played along and lied that I came from Busia initially but relocated to Nairobi.

We discussed a few of her products and I ordered a round of beverages. She seemed to like the business negotiations, it was like a bilateral engagement between a third world country and a rich multinational aid agency.

I obviously had no intention of signing the agreements, and my exit strategy was refined to detail. I swallowed my drink with a calculated male cool, covering the bottle with my palm after every sip lest someone threw rice into it from a mile.

It was time to execute my exit plan. After taking my drink to about three quarters so as to minimise my loss, I got up and stretched then excused myself to rush to the gents. I knew all the exit routes from the club, that is always my first assignment when I enter a new place.

To the gents I went, but I took the backdoor stairs three at a time and soon was lying on my bed in the hotel room panting like a deer that had escaped from some nasty lions claws.

Of course this is not a nice ending from a business perspective, but my young soul was not ready for happy endings.


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