Jumba la Mtwana Ruins is one of the historical structures and most archaeological relics on the Indian Ocean Coast of Kenya, lying close to the Mtwapa Creek, at Malindi, in Kilifi county, north of Mombasa, it is located a little less than 13 miles (20 kilometers) from the Mombasa island near Mtwapa Creek and the ruins are all that remains of the small historical Swahili town that was deserted about 500 years ago, it dates back to the fourteenth century and its features include a mosque by the sea.
The full name Jumba la Mtwana means in Swahili ‘’the large house of the slave’’ Within this area four mosques, a tomb and four houses have survived in recognizable condition. These houses include the House of the cylinder, The House of the Kitchen, The house of the many pools, which had three phases, and the Great mosque. The inhabitants of this town were mainly Muslims as evidence by a number of the ruined mosques. Excavation of the site began in 1972, and ten years later the site was recognized as a National Monument, here the guests used to travel and go for their wildlife Kenya safaris from there. Evidence found within the rural metropolis indicates that it started out around the 14th century and chosen for the proximity to the fresh water, as well as the fresh Ocean breezes and strategic position to avoid attack from the water.
There are no written historical records of the town but ceramic evidence showed that the town had been built in the fourteenth century but abandoned early in the fifteenth century. The dating is based on the presence of a few shreds of early blue and white porcelain with lung-chuan celadon, and the absence of any later Chinese wares. It is most likely the site’s strategic position was selected because of the presence of fresh water, exposure to the North East and South East breezes which would keep the people cool and its safe location from external attacks by the sea since it has no harbor, thus larger vessels had to anchor along way offshore, or move probably in the Mtwapa creek, one can only therefore guess reasons for its eventual desertion, namely trade interruption, hostile invasion or failure in water supply.
Jumba La Mtwana Ruins the ‘’Mansion of the slaves’’ in Kiswahili is one of the many ruins to be found along the Kenyan coast, the architecture is of Arabic design featuring arched openings and wide use of coral blocks held together by the lime mortar made out of the coral in a meticulous process of heating and desalinating lasting over one year. Several wells which provided running water for drinking, cooking and ablution facilities (separate for men and women) have been preserved. Walking through the ruins, you can almost feel the place come alive taking you back 600 years.
Arabs were great astromers and they developed intricate astronomical charts for trade overland and on the Indian Ocean even before the birth of Christ (the three wise men following the star to Bethlehem).During the 14th century, trade routes were largely determined by what were known as the trade winds, on the Indian Ocean these winds were known as the Monsoon winds, blowing from the southwest in summer and from the northeast in winter.
Currently the Jumba La Mtwana, the site is managed by very knowledgeable curator, Mr. Hashim Hinzano, with a compliment of seven staff including two watchmen which is hardly enough to oversee a site measuring over 12 acrea.There is a reconstructed skeleton of a sperm whale, washed ashore in 2013, outside the main exhibition hall, the facility receives between 300 to 500 visitors per month consisting mostly of the school children on the education safaris. It is not clearly sign-posted and it is easy to miss the turn-off the main road.
Jumba la Mtwana is well known as archaeologist’s paradise with a serene atmosphere. It has an arboretum, a picnic site safaris, wedding parties, serves as a study site for history students and a private and secure beach front for many tourists on Kenya safaris can also enjoy swimming, if only it were well maintains it has a capacity to become a major tourism destination and a historical attraction in Kenya, with very interesting site with remarkable ruins of the coral stone architecture, including houses and a mosque on the beach, and you also learn quite a bit about the Swahili culture and about other historical sites in East Africa, therefore the ruins are generally very pleasant to visit even if you have no interest in history.
Entrance fee to Jumba la Mtwana Ruins.
You have to pay a small entrance fee around 200 Ksh per person. And it opens from 9:00am to 6:00pm from Monday to Friday.