Gedi Ruins are a relic of the African-Arab settlements found on the coast of East Africa, from Mogadishu in Somalia to the Vumba Kuu at the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Its location indicates that it was a model settlement with advanced streets and even flushing toilets.
It was also a trading town, if the Ming Chinese vases, Venetian glass and artefacts from all over the world are anything to go by.
The city occupied a large area, protected by two walls. The area protected by the inner wall was a preserve of the rich while the middle-class lived in the area enclosed by the outer wall. The peasants lived outside the walls.
Today only the coral walls of the city remain. The mud-thatched houses belonging to the peasants have since disappeared.
The palace at Gedi. Photo: Wiki
It is still a mystery why the people of this well-planned city packed up and left. Not once but twice. Some of the theories put out for this abandonment include that the city was attacked by an army on its way to Malindi in the 1530s and that the attack of the Galla people made life unbearable for the Gedi inhabitants in the 1600s. The third theory suggest that the lack of water within the outer walls contributed to its abandonment. Speculation is that the upper class of the city did not flee as they had time to collect their valuables since nothing was found in their secret vaults.
Since there are no written records or folklore of what really happened at the ruins, no one knows what really happened.
To ensure that visitors enjoy the value of Gedi Ruins, the government made it a historical monument in 1927 and in 1929 declared it a protected site after thieves started stealing the Chinese porcelain inset in the ruins. Restoration of the site’s structure started in 1939 and later in between 1948 and 1959, the forest surrounding the ruins was cleared.
The National Museums of Kenya is currently managing the site, where a museum featuring a permanent display of Swahili Culture was established.
Kenya submitted the town of Gedi to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a World Heritage List nominee in 2010. It is currently on the tentative list.
Apart from the archaeological value, Gedi ruins is also home to diverse plants and wildlife including forest birds such as the Turacos and African Harrier Hawks.