A Guide To Gedi Ruins
Gedi Ruins Kenya are in the north coast of Mombasa towards Malindi in Kenya. Gedi was a small town built from rocks and stones. It was inhabited by a few thousand Swahili people and ruled by a rich Sultan.
Gedi Ruins date back to the 15th century, and due to preservation most of the original foundation is intact. A well – informed guide gives a tour of the ruins. They are national museum by law, and their preservation is a reflection of the Kenya Government commitment to uphold the country’s cultural and historical background.
Gedi Ruins in Kenya Destination Guide
Gede ruins are the remains of a Swahili town, typical of most towns along the East African Coast. It traces its origin in the twelfth century but was rebuilt with new town walls in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This rebuilding is connected with the emigration of many citizens of Kilwa to Mombasa, Malindi and other places along the coast.
With its numerous inhabitants, the town became wealthy and it reached its peak in the fifteenth century. This enormous wealth is evidenced by the presence of numerous ruins, comprising of a conglomeration of mosques; a magnificent palace and houses all nestled in 45 acres of primeval forest. But in the first half of the seventeenth century the last families left the town.
Gedi Ruins in Kenya Abandoned
Gede’s eventual abandonment to nature is believed to be as a result of a number of factors. Namely, the Wazimba raid along the East African coast in 1589. The removal of the Sheikh of Malindi and the Portuguese to Mombasa in 1593. The falling water table as shown by the deepening of the well outside the Great Mosque and finally the overhanging menace of the Galla, a hostile nomadic ethnic group from Somalia.
Gedi Ruins remains the first intensively studied site on the coast. It was first visited by Sir John Kirk, a British resident of Zanzibar in 1884. Over forty years later in 1927, it was gazetted as a Historical Monument. Two years later in 1929, it was declared a “protected monument” and in the late thirties, the Public Works Department carried out work on preservation of its crumbling walls. Gede was soon after the repairs in 1948 declared a National park and an Archaeologist appointed as warden. Thus, the first archaeological work at Gede began under the direction of James Kirkman followed by the first publication of the site. In 1969, Gede’s administration was taken over by the Museum Trustees.
Currently the Monument is under the care of the National Museums of Kenya and in addition to being a very important archaeological site; Gede indigenous forest is a sacred site for traditional rituals and sacrifices for the surrounding community.
What To See in Gedi Ruins
Taking a guided tour through the ruins and the museum will teach you a lot of interesting things about the fascinating culture of the Swahili people and the ancient town they constructed. Additionally, you can walk along the nature trail network which comprises 40 different species of plants and leads to lesser ruins throughout the forest.
Gede Ruins is also an excellent place to observe wildlife. Forest birds like Turacos, Malachite Kingfishers, Paradise flycatchers and African Harrier Hawks can be seen from the tree platform which was built for the A Rocha’s Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-tourism Scheme (ASSETS) programme.
The Gede Ruins National Monument & Museum is open to public daily from 7 am to 6 pm
Comparison of Gedi Ruins With Other Similar Properties
The history of the rise and fall of Gedi is intricately linked to what was happening to the other Swahili states along the eastern coast of Africa such as Kilwa. While they share this history, its architectural designs are equivalent to those of the historic cities of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara in Tanzania.
Ghostly in Gedi – A Safari to Gedi Ruins
Pale yellow butterflies dance down the chalky white road that leads to the lost city of Gedi. More flutter in the car park; blue ones, yellow ones and white ones; some are as large as folded bank notes. It’s hot and humid here; the air hangs heavy as a blanket; the sun has reached its zenith and is on its way down, but your shirt still sticks to your back and the uniform buzzing in the air tangles with your thoughts.
The car park, the ticket office and the small, seemingly half-finished, museum stand in a clearing in the dense coastal forest. But their tenure has no conviction. The surrounding forest edges in on them, keen to take back its own: it’s a sly, secret place. Huge baobab trees, their grey trunks bulbous as elephant bellies, cast pools of dappled shade. You flit between them to reach the silver-grey maze of the ruins.
Once inside what was once the greatest city on the Kenyan coast, the shadows vanquish the sun. Some fall from the great arched doors. Some from pillar tombs, some pool around squat wells.
And as you wander the lanes and courts of this forgotten city, built around 1390 and sprawling over 45 acres of coastal forest, you could almost believe its inhabitants to have but recently left. In truth, they did so more than three centuries ago.
There are narrow streets, flanked by cramped shops, each with their own rows of shelves and tiny niches for their lanterns. In the centre of the city is a great palace, its magnificent doorway, blind of its doors, leading into a sunken court flanked by stone benches where once the sultan’s supplicants must have waited.
Behind the palace walls run secret passages into hidden rooms where once the harem fluttered. There’s even a secret vault reached only be a hidden trap door. But no jewel caskets remain.
This was a cosmopolitan city; it was wealthy and powerful, trading with Arabia and China. Flourishing for several centuries, it grew in size and might. But then, suddenly, very suddenly, it was abandoned.
Dropped jewels were found in the streets. Cups, coins, lamps; hurled to the ground as if in terrified flight. But from what?
Nobody knows. Legend, however, tells us that the fearsome Galla tribe were advancing down the coast and had already laid bare all in their way. And they were cannibals. Good enough reason to flee.
A place of shadowed corners and ruined arches, winding lanes and sullen courtyards, Gedi is gaunt, grey and hauntingly beautiful. It’s also hushed and eerie, a place of secrets. Lived in briefly by the maneating Galla, it was soon abandoned. Then the jungle took back its own and nothing remained but a dense wall of forest. Nothing but rumours that is.
Gedi Ruins – Top tip
Immediately adjacent to Gedi (and clearly signposted) is the fascinating Kipepeo Butterfly Project, Kipepeo means butterfly in Swahili and this community-based eco-farm offers an enchanting butterfly display house as well as a startling showcase of butterfly products such as; moth pupae and other live insects as well as honey and silk cloth all of which is produced by the local community around the Arabuko Sokoke forest.
For more information visit: Kipepeo Butterfly Project
Gede Ruins National Monument & Museum Contacts
Gede Ruins National Monument & Museum, Curator- Mr Jambo
tel +254 (0)42-2332065 ; (0) 722326313