Located north of Mombasa; just outside of the town of Malindi, the Gedi Ruins date back to the 15th century and are a popular destination to visit when on holiday on the Kenyan North Coast.
Gede ruins are the remains of a typical Swahili town built along the East African coast. It originally dates back to the 12th century, but was rebuilt as a new town in the 15th and 16th centuries. The rebuilding was connected to emigration of many citizens of Kilwa to Mombasa, Malindi and other coastal towns.
With more people living there, the town became prosperous and reached its peak in the 15th century. This wealth can be verified in the ruins by the presence of mosques; a palace and houses, which are nestled in the Arabuko - Sokoke primeval forest. But by the first half of the 17th century the town was abandoned.
This abandonment of the town back to nature is believed to be the result of many factors including: In 1589 there were many coastal raids by Congo tribes known as the Wazimba raids. In 1593 the Sheikh of Malindi joined the Portuguese and moved south to settle in Mombasa.
The Portuguese made the Sheikh into a Sultan as his reward for joining them. There is also evidence of a falling water table; as can be seen by the deepening of the well outside the great mosque; and finally the collapse of Gedi was ensured by the overhanging threat of the Galla, a hostile nomadic tribe from Somalia.
Gede ruins have been intensely studied; the first reported visit was by Sir John Kirk, a British resident of Zanzibar in 1884. Later in 1927, it was gazetted as a historical monument, then in 1929 declared as a protected monument. Restoration and repairs have been made on its crumbling walls in the 1930’s. In 1948 the Gede Ruins became a National Park and an archaeologist was placed as a warden.
Today the monument is under the care of the National Museums of Kenya. The indigenous forest surrounding the ruins is still known as a sacred site for traditional rituals and sacrifices for the surrounding community.
Guided tours around these ruins, to get a feel of the fascinating Swahili history, can be arranged from your hotel whilst you are staying on the North Kenyan Coast or Mombasa.
The Gede Ruins are in the Kilifi district, 16 Km south of Malindi Town and about 90 Km north of Mombasa.