Amazing story of oldest bar in Mombasa

Wednesday May 22 2019

A photo of Kilindini Bar in Mombasa taken on April 18, 2019. The clientele of mostly elderly people has a characteristic that fits the pub’s old age: they hardly make noise. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


When Kilindini Bar was established, way back in 1908, there was no brewery in the country.

The only beers available were imported from South Africa, Europe and Japan, and they cost 75 cents.

Even more fascinating is that the drinking joint has been owned by the same family.

On the walls of the pub hang photos of beers that were sold way back in 1928.

The clientele of mostly elderly people has a characteristic that fits the pub’s old age: they hardly make noise.

The antique furniture of the two-room bar is conspicuous. Old counters and stools, made from teak, have escaped the wrath of termites and withstood the test of time.



Old cigarette posters, bottle models of whiskeys, wines and beers still have pride of place on the bar shelves, all symbolic of history. You can play darts here.

Part of the bar’s brochure reads, “Men associated with the growth of port and island over half a century have discussed their problems over its counter.”

Ronald Ngala, a Kenyan politician who was the leader of the Kenya African Democratic Union, and Ernest Hemingway, an American novelist, are among the personalities who visited Kilindini Bar for a quiet drink and to have a good time.

The bar has had only one owner — the De Souza family. The current owner is Maura De Souza Abranches, who took over the business after the death of her sister Grace De Souza in 2016.

She runs the premise with her husband, Clarence Abranches, a retired accountant.

The bar is located on Mwakilingo Street, formally known as Sharifbhai.


Taking us down memory lane, Ms Abranches says that her grandfather came to East Africa in 1898 and joined a firm called Smith Mackenzie & Company as a shipping clerk.

Their offices were located at Ndia Kuu Old Town, Mombasa. Her grandfather bought the premises in 1908.

“During the colonial period, the bar exclusively admitted the Whites and Asians, no Africans were allowed,” Ms Abranches says.

She recalls her father telling her that he was fined Sh4,000 for serving beer to an African man.

Apparently, the business was mainly run on credit, where a customer could partake of his choice of beer and pay at the end of the month.

“It was not a wise business model because many customers vanished without paying bills,” Maura owns.


Near the bar counter is pendulum clock that is almost as old as the establishment, having been bought in 1910. It has to be reset every week.

Though the interior of the bar has remained largely the same over the decades, besides a few touches of modernity, such as a television set to cater for football fans, the outside is definitely not what it was.

We are told that trees and bushes surrounded the bar, and it was common to spot wild animals. This of course, is no longer the case.

Sadly, this fascinating piece of history will be no more once building of the proposed Likoni Bridge, estimated to cost Sh80 billion, commences.

“We have already been given notice to vacate the premises,” Ms Abranches says.