Africa's Mombasa Marketplaceby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
One thing shops at Disney theme parks generally do quite well is fit the environment around them. The decor and merchandise often reflect the land or ride of which they are a part (and how many Disney attractions don't let out into some kind of shop?). Think the Plaza del Sol Caribe Bazaar shop at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean, with decor that fits right in with the ride and oodles of Pirates booty, or all the shops in Epcot's World Showcase that blend in seamlessly with the pavilions around them and carry goods from the nations they represent (read here for my German pavilion example).
It's this kind of placemaking that goes right down to the shops that sets Disney apart from its competitors. One of Walt Disney World's best examples of this is the Mombasa Marketplace in the Africa section of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Located right near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris, the shop fits right in with Harambe, the African town that comprises this section of the park, in terms of both decor and the merchandise it offers.
The merchandise mix at the shop encompasses everything from your typical Walt Disney World gear (shirts, hats, keychains) to items that would fit in with an authentic African safari.
Beginning with the former, the shop has some great plush and Animal Kingdom T-shirts. The plush features classic Disney characters, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, in safari gear.
The park clothing mainly centers around the Animal Kingdom or the nearby Kilimanjaro Safaris, and happily rather than just featuring the park logo, there are a lot of really cool patterns, generally featuring woodsy or jungle themes. As expected, the hats for sale are of the safari expedition variety, and come both with and without mouse ears.
A look at the available clothing items provides a good segue to some of the more interesting items in the store. There are some great clothing choices just centered on the animals. Some of them are more cartoonish, such as my favorite T-shirt, which features four giraffes caught up in a "giraffic jam." Others are more elegant for lack of a better word. There are some great shirts and women's blouses with beautiful images of elephants, lions and tigers, as well as dresses.
Next up are some wonderful animal figures and figurines (what's the difference between those anyway?). The first we'll discuss are made of a stone material. These come in the form of many different types of animals (elephants, lions, giraffes) and in several different sizes. Many of these are hand-painted and very elaborate. Some of the larger figures can be a little pricey, but the smaller ones can be had for only $11.95.
There are also many beautiful wood carvings in animal shapes. These are hand carved and again come in many different shapes and sizes. I, myself, purchased a medium-sized, hand-carved giraffe that I got for $19.95.
The wood-carved items available aren't limited to figurines. There are also some attractive African masks. These comes in the shapes of several different animals and are probably designed to hang on the wall than the wear for Halloween. These are also hand-carved and very unique, and sell for $32.95.
Another highlight is the wood carved instruments. These are mainly drums and again come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Keeping up with the Africa and safari theme, the shop also carries some great artwork. These include limited editions and some great originals. One item I saw on a recent visit was a limited-edition giclee from Thomas Kinkade, the famed "painter of light." The image combined Disney and the Africa theme brilliantly by depicting the open scene from The Lion King, where Simba is presented to all the animals of the pride lands. It was part of a limited edition of 300 and cost $1,100.
That one's kind of pricey, but there's a wide selection of prints available that are far less expensive.
A few other items of note at Mombasa were some straw fans (that would come in handy at Animal Kingdom, which we all know can get very hot) and some beautiful coffee table books with images of the various animals and African landscapes.
Oddly, there is also a section with various kinds of sweets and candy, including a bulk candy section, where you can mix and match a variety of candies for $12.99/pound.
As I mentioned earlier, the white-washed exterior fits in perfectly with the shop's surroundings. The inside has some great elements as well. From the terra cotta floors to the exposed wood beams in the ceiling, the decor screams theming, and showcases the Imagineer's work at its best.
Mombasa Marketplace has some great merchandise, both authentic to Africa and authentic to Disney. Between that and the great theming, it's definitely worth your time to take a browse during your next Animal Kingdom visit.