The history of Mombasa is intriguing; with the governance of Oman Arabs and Portuguese we have Kenyans who have Arabic and Portuguese ancestry. The Oman Arabs have different traditions that have been passed on generation by generation in Mombasa. One of them is making of Halwa (Haluwa), a sugary snack that is served with coffee (Kahawa chungu).
The Halwa is made of different ingredients including starch, eggs, sugar, water, ghee, saffron, cardamom, nuts and rose water. The Mix is cooked in a big copper pot, stirred vigorously till it becomes a gelatinous substance.
In Mombasa, the first Oman Arab to open a Halwa shop was Salim Mansur Al- Mawly in the 1930’s on Abdulnasser Road.
It was opened to serve the community with delicious and special Halwa for all occasions and celebrations. Salim Mansur cooked and served Halwa for over 50 years till his death in 1980, where his son Nassir Salim Mansur took over the business. When Nassir took over the business, he also taught his son the special ingredients and cooking techniques to Abdulmajid. In just seven years after his inheritance Nassir passed away, and Abdulmajid took over the business up to date.
After a few years at the Abdulnasser road location, they moved to a new Location on Biashara Street (Markiti side). For 70 years they have served in the same shop up to today. They specialize in Plain Halwa, and Almonds. They cater to all occasions, be it a wedding, a Maulidi (Prophet Mohamed’s Day of Birth). It can be served in a big aluminum tray, or small cups for ease of distribution. Although the original was served in small woven basket called Kitalifa, the baskets were woven by Bajun women from Lamu. Since there were no refrigerators at that time, it was known for the basket to preserve the Halwa for a longer period of time.
The interiors of the shop have remained the same for all these years, giving you a taste of history. Every morning you will find a group of old men playing backgammon while eating Halwa and drinking kahawa chungu (coffee).
For orders and prices call Abdulmajid 0722 587 430
A swahili Poem about Kitalifa:
Kitaa kilo kitito
Shubiri yalo pungua
Ikatiwa ili moto
Ndio maana ya haluwa kutiwa kitaani.
A visit inside Salim Mansoor through pictures: