Hidden under the glares of an ancient rain forest, on the North Coast of Mombasa towards Malindi town, lays an abandoned ancient Swahili town known as Gedi Ruins.
On arrival, one is welcomed by several guides who are mainly freelance locals from around the surrounding towns. Interestingly, just about everyone in this small town can speak Italian. Right from a young age, the local community speak Italian just like they speak Swahili or their mother tongue. Our guide informs us that most of the investors around the region are Italians as well as tourist.
The Great Mosque
Gedi is one of Kenya’s great unknown treasures. A wonderful lost city lying in the depth of Arabuko Sokoke forest. The town is said to date back to the 15th Century. The town was rehabilitated by the National Museums and was declared a national monument in 1948. The town walls and foundations can still be seen to-date. Gedi was abandoned in the early 18th century. In 1927 Gedi was Gazetted as a historical monument.
There was a small town built entirely of stone and coral. The ruins are confusing and partly haunting. Ancient stone floors and deserted houses seat silently while birds and butterflies drift through the city’s air. Baobab trees can be seen having grown way past the walls. The city is believed to have had a population of 2,500 people. Left standing today are several coral brick houses, mosques, as well as a palace ruin tombs. The Great Mosque is believed to date back to the mid 15th century. It is one of the main attractions that are of great interest. It is believed that the town had eight mosques.
There is evidence of a pulpit where the Imam used to give sermons to the residents. The city represents evidence of a relatively rich town. The size of several houses that depicts the wealth of the people at this town. There are large numbers of water wells that a quit deep meaning the city had water during its existence. There are well-built bathrooms with bathtubs and squatting toilets all made of stone that can be seen within the ruins.
Those living within the innermost part of the town are believed to have been the wealthiest people. The dated tomb has a date engraved on it indicating the Islamic and Christian calendar 802AH/1399AD. It is believed that the town was inhabited twice but the second time the town did not regain her economic status. The story is that the town was abandoned due to dry water wells. The water in the wells is believed to have changed from its normal taste to a sweet and salty taste which eventually dried up.
The facility is run by the National Museums of Kenya hence there is also a museum within the city. Inside the museum, there are excavations from the town 1948-1958, that were recovered, many that are Persian, Chinese, glass and glazed earthenware indicating not only trade links but a taste for good life among the Swahili elites. The ruins make for one of the popular tourist attractions while in Malindi or Watamu.
Other Ruins that one can see while at Gedi Ruins include;
The tomb of the fluted pillar
The house of Cisten
The Reception court, The Women Court, The Men’s Court, Palace Annexe
Pillar Tomb:- Indicating where the leaders and prominent people were buried.
House of the Chinese Cash:- believed to have been the peoples’ bank.
House of the Venetian Bead
House of the Iron Lamp
House of Scissors
House of the sunken court
House of cowries
North Gate: Indicate a perimeter wall that separated the locals from the Gedi town community.