The travelling photographers of Mombasa
For years, Swaleh Kabus has been travelling with a camera in tow. He is not a photographer but an engineer.
While touring Egypt, he decided to start documenting and sharing his travels.
“Every country has its own charm but what I loved most about Egypt is the culture,’’ he says.
Taking photos of all the places he visited opened his eyes to a new way of marketing Mombasa.
In 2015, he approached a few amateur photographers and they formed a group showcasing the unseen Mombasa to the world.
Mombasa Lenses was born and it has seven members; an architect, an engineer, a technology expert, a lawyer, a real estate consultant and engineers. They meet occasionally and travel.
Visiting the group’s Instagram page is like taking a free vacation. They have uploaded photos of dreamy landscapes, interior décor, portraits, cultural weddings and architecture that tell a tale of the diversity of different cities.
Some shots are calming like one of a sunset from Mombasa’s Mama Ngina Drive while others are wild, showing night life in the tourist city. The self-taught photographers polish their skills from YouTube.
Swaleh has been to Italy, Dubai and Egypt among other countries. The engineer-cum-photographer has now taught his 16-year-old son on the art of documenting travels. His son’s photo was the top-selling in a recent exhibition in Diani.
“People come to Coast for the beaches. How about as you drive to Mombasa, you go through Tsavo to Malindi, then Mombasa?’’ he says.
Hamids Al-Timami, one of the members who is a technology consultant, always travels with a DSLR camera.
“Even when I travel for business, I carry my camera with me,” he says.
In his portfolio, you’ll find pictures from Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa, Egypt, Tanzania, Oman and Amsterdam. He has also been to the UK, Austria and Belgium.
“In Oman, my best shot was of parliament from a hill. I also took a photo of a dhow in between rocks,’’ he says.
In Cairo, he took a picture of the Pyramid of Giza and sold it online for Sh2,000. Another pictured earned him Sh10,000.
From cemeteries, butterflies havens, Maulidi festivals, food, lighthouses, sanctuaries, monuments, cultural performances to lions mating in Tsavo, the group showcases the off-the-beaten paths and uncommon tourist activities.
“There are beautiful giraffes and ostriches in Bamburi. Yet many people ask where this place is,’’ says Hamids who plans to visit China, Singapore, Spain, France and Turkey for some architectural shots.
Another member Abdillah Muhammad Al-Maawiy who is 29 years old says theirs is a hobby that has turned into a profession. Besides wildlife and landscape, he sees beauty in cats.
“They are beautiful. I want to show them to people,” he says, adding that when photographing iconic sites, he prefers taking photos from a distance than close-up.
For best lighting, take the photos early in the morning or late afternoon, he advises.
His best shot is an aerial view of Mombasa from an Uber chopper.
Kaif Bagha who is an accountant and a rally co-driver prefers motorsport photography. He was inspired while in Rwanda during a rally competition.
“I took good pictures with a Sony digital camera,’’ he says, adding that his favourite photo is that of a car on its side with the wheels locked.
An architect, Abdallah Mohammad started photography using his iPhone. His loves buildings with intricate designs.
“I want to show the buildings, not the traditional huts. We are developing in Africa and we have some luxurious buildings,” he says.
The group wants to tell Kenya’s tourist destination story from many angles.
‘‘People see the photos and make plans to travel to these beautiful places. People even buy the photographs,” he says.
For Salma Essa, an electrical and electronic engineer, it is nature that makes her tick. But their passion has not flourished without challenges.
“In most cases, it is not safe walking in the city with a camera if you love street photography, you might land yourself in a police station,” she says.
Salma’s love for photography started after her brother gifted her a Sony camera on her 18th birthday. She is currently using a Nikon D5600.
“I started clicking, it was fun and I gradually to became the family photographer…and now a travel photographer,” she says.