Mombasa’s Tusks

Featured Image Source: Wolfgang Seifarth, Under Creative Commons,

The most iconic monument in Mombasa has to be the Tusks. The two tusks stand on each side of the dual carriageway road, Moi Avenue. The tusks cross over the road and create an impressive sight as one drive under them. The two tusks stand one behind the other because of the small size of the median in the road. The median is only 6 meters wide. The median has some greenery with small flowers, shrubs and plants being situated in the median.

Map 2
Source: ThirdWorldArchitecture, Under Creative Commons

The tusks are made from aluminium and are painted white to give them an ivory look. The tusks are known in Swahili as ‘Pembe za Ndovu’ meaning elephant ivory. The two tusks also coincidently create an ‘M’, the first letter of Mombasa.

The first set of tusks were commisioned in 1952. They were built to commemorate the visit of Princess Elizabeth II although Elizabeth never visited due to the death of her father King George VI while she was in Nyeri. The first set of tusks were built just down the road from where the current ones stand and were made from wood and canvas and were only meant to be temporary. Although exact details of the first tusks are not well documented.

The second and current set of tusks were built after the visit of Princess Margaret in 1956. The new tusks were built from aluminium and were built to last. The new tusks still stand today more than 50 years later and have become an important tourist attraction within the city.

Source: Sludge G, Under Creative Commons,

The tusks can be seen in a wider historical context of victory arches that can be found all over Europe. The most famous being the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Source: Lévy et Neurdein réunis. Paris, Under Public Domain,,_c.1920.jpg

Although the tusks don’t celebrate a victorious battle as the Arc de Triomphe does. It celebrates the victory at Austerlitz by Napoleon. The Tusks do celebrate a mementoes occasion, the coming of Princess Elizabeth and later Princess Margaret. The Tusks can be seen in the same historical context as other Archs around the world but the form is a uniquely Kenyan design. The tusks are a must see in Mombasa and are part of Mombasa’s incredible history.

Sources: TheeagoraFriends of MombasaWikipedia (Arc de Triomphe)FlickrWikipedia (Tusks)

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