Into which city do these tusks welcome visitors?
Into Mombasa, Kenya
Mombasa is certainly the oldest city in Kenya and one of the historical ports of East Africa.
The iconographic symbol of Mombasa, however, has no deep roots in the history of the island-city, but its origins are relatively recent, dating back to 1952.
These are the famous aluminium tusks that dominate the central artery of the city: four elephant tusks of white colour reminiscent of ivory, positioned to intersect and compose as many arches in the two lanes of Moi Avenue (once Kilindini Road).
The two iconic tusks (Mapembe ya Ndovu) were erected in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the city, who stayed at the Mombasa Yachting Club.
Originally the tusks were made of wood and were erected precisely because it was known that the British Sovereign would pass by that road to go from Mombasa airport to his residence by the sea. The idea was to remove them when the Queen returned home, but given their proximity to Uhuru Park, the citizens’ recreation area, the tusks almost became an attraction.
Not only that: many travel agencies and merchants began to associate their activities with the two tusks, as a symbol of Mombasa, rather than using Fort Jesus, the Swahili gates, the dhows or some Portuguese or Indian palace in the old town.
So it was that in 1956 the Municipality decided to rebuild them even more imposing, using aluminium which would have more easily withstood the heat and rain.
So much so that, with some seasonal repainting, the tusks are still there to camp in the heart of the city and today, in addition to travelers’ catalogues, stamps and digital images, they welcome the selfie of tourists from all over the world and remind that Kenya is the country of wildlife and savannah, which is just over a hundred kilometres from Mombasa itself.
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