Top 10 Museums, Monuments and Historical sites in the Kenyan Coast: Reviews and Ratings
When one is planning for a holiday to Mombasa or the Kenyan Coast, the first few attractions and “must do activities” that come to mind are, sleep in nice hotels, visit the beach, take Mnazi and party like there is no tomorrow!
While this is a good way to spend a vacation, there are so many other things to do, see, and places to visit whether you along the South coast or North coast.
By interacting with the local people, you will learn a lot about the heritage, way of life, history, traditions and rich culture of the communities.
Along the Kenyan coast, there are Museums, Monuments and Historical sites located in the towns of Diani, Mombasa, Kilifi, Malindi, and Lamu.
Next time you plan your trip to the coast, visit some of these places and you will realize how rich and beautiful the Kenyan coast is.
List of attractions and things to do in Mombasa, Nyali, Watamu, Kilifi, Malindi, and Lamu
Gede Ruins, Kilifi
Gede ruins are the remains of an old Swahili settlement at just off the Mombasa – Malindi road on the Watamu turn off.
The site consists of the ruins of a Swahili stone town, typical of those found along the coast, founded around the end of the 13th century but it was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The word Gede is Galla or Orma name for “Precious”.
Although no written record of the town has been discovered, excavations have revealed that its inhabitants numbering more than 2,500 were engaged in a thriving trade with people from as far as China.
The town’s prosperity thought to have peaked in the 15th century is evident from the numerous ruins comprising of mosques, a magnificent palace and large stone houses spread over 45 acres of lush forest.
It is a typical East African design with a Mihrab facing Mecca and a ritual washing area.
Fort Jesus National Museum, Mombasa
Fort Jesus was built in 1593 by the Portuguese under the order of King Philip 1.
Designed by Italian Engineer Joao Batista Cairato, the Fort built in the shape of a man, was meant to secure the safety of Portuguese living along the East Coast of Africa.
Fort Jesus, which guarded the old town of Mombasa, has witnessed much turbulence. Between 1631 and 1875, the fort was won and lost nine times by the powers contesting for Mombasa.
From 1837, the fort was used as a Barrack for soldiers and when the British protectorate was claimed in 1895, it was converted into a prison.
It was later declared as a Historical Monument in 1958 and became a Museum in 1962.
Jumba la Mtwana Ruins, Mombasa
In Mtwapa, 15 Km North of Mombasa, lies magnificent historical ruins which are the remains of a 13th-century Swahili settlement called Jumba La Mtwana. Nestled among Giant Baobab trees commonly known as Mabuyu, the ruins include the remains of mosques, several houses, and a rich man’s tomb.
Notable in the architecture is elaborate coral walls, stone-lined latrines, and deep freshwater wells.
The name “Jumba La Mtwana” though popularly interpreted as “House of the Slaves” could also mean “House of the Big Man”.
It was abandoned in the 15th century after only two centuries of inhabitation; possible causes of failure might have been in the failure of fresh water supply, disease or an attack by hostile raiders.
Managed by the National Museums of Kenya, Jumba La Mtwana ruins also have a museum with historical artifacts that include Chinese porcelain and traditional Swahili artifacts.
Bioken Snake farm, Mombasa
Bioken snake farm specializes in the “Big Five” African snakes; Boom Slang, The Python, Mamba, Cobra and Puff Adder.
The farm is a Major producer of Venom which is used to develop anti-venom. A visit to this farm is very exciting and educative.
Isaac Nyondo Primary School
Hidden in the hinterland of Rabai at the home of Dr. Ludwig Kraft and Rebmann, is Kenya’s first school that the latter founded in 1849.
This was a primary school named Rabai primary School and which was later named Isaac Nyondo primary School.
The school was named after Isaac Nyondo who was one of the first Africans to be converted to Christianity. The school still stands and still in use up to today.
Mnarani Ruins, Kilifi
Mnarani is a Swahili name derived from the Swahili word “Mnara”, meaning minaret or pillar.
The ruins are located on a steep cliff overlooking the Kilifi Creek and archeological finds indicate that the site had some settlement until the late 16th century.
Mnarani formed the “city-state” of Kilifi as known by the Portuguese.
Highlights at the site include the great Mihrab mosque, which is the most inscribed and carved mosque, the smaller mosque that has unique coral cuttings used for storage of lighting lamps or keeping rosary beads, its giant baobab trees, its mangroves and the mysterious 104 steps.
Kraft Memorial Park, Mombasa
The Kraft Memorial Park commemorates the life and activities of the German missionary, explorer, and linguist, Dr. Johannes Ludwig Kraft.
Across the pillar, are the graves of his wife, daughter and two other Christian faithful who died in Mombasa.
The park is located on the North mainland at Mkomani, Nyali.
Originally constructed shortly after 1844, the pillar is a reminder of Kraft. He was an explorer, adventurer and a linguist who made the first Swahili dictionary and the pioneer Christian missionary in Kenya.
Rabai Mission Cultural Landscape and Kraft Museum
Rabai Mission Center was established over 155 years ago. It is known in history as the place where Christianity and modern learning started in Kenya.
The Rabai mission comprises of the original church which was established in 1846 by Dr. Ludwig Kraft but is currently used as Kraft Memorial Museum since 1998.
In the mission is also the first primary school in Kenya, the St. Paul church built in 1887 and Kraft house built in 1846 which is currently used as a vicarage.
Lamu Town, Lamu
Dating back to at least the 12th Century, This is one of Kenya’s four world heritage sites.
Lamu is the oldest surviving Swahili town in East Africa. It is also the only coastal settlement to retain its original character in Africa.
The town is a heritage treasure of both architecture and town planning.
There are two annual events happening in the town, the annual maulid celebrations and the Lamu cultural festival which is a world attraction event.
Lamu is re-known for its narrow roads with no vehicles. The main modes of transport being donkeys and bicycles.
There are over 160 unique historic houses clustered in the town. Among them are;
- The Swahili House Museum
- Old German Post Office Museum
- Donkey Sanctuary,
- The 19th Century Fort
- Waterfront itself.
Vasco da Gama Pillar & Portuguese Chapel, Malindi
This was Kenya’s first Christian symbol located today in Malindi; the pillar was erected in Malindi by the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama in 1498.
The current location is not its original location. It was moved there due to security reasons many years after being installed by Vasco Da Gama.
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