Tales of an Abandoned City: Gedi Ruins

Travel
Gedi

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness~ Frank Gehry.

 

Nestled in a tranquil, richly-green and forested area, the Gedi Ruins National Monument is what I would call timeless.

 

As promised, here is Part 2 of Watamu’s Top 7 Things to Do! 🙂 And Today we step way, way back in time to explore the Abandoned City of Gedi… In case you missed it… you can read Part One of the Series: ‘Old is Gold’ >> Here

 

Gedi Ruins National Monument

Gede, which means “precious” or ‘thamani‘  in Swahili, dates back to the early 13th Century.

Initially, Gedi was called Kilimani, but the Oromo, a Nomadic community, changed it to “Gede”. They were drawn by the availability of green pastures and water for their livestock. It is the Swahili who later corrupted the name to Gedi.

Gedi_Ruins

 

It is located about 20 km south of Malindi, and a short distance from Watamu Beach. It is easily accessible from the road, and you can get there via a Tuk-tuk, or a Matatu.

When we arrived at the site, I was not certain what to expect from Gedi Ruins. But if the serene atmosphere was anything to go by, I knew it was going to be amazing….

My ‘amazement’ came a few minutes into it and rather unexpectedly! I was taking a picture of this cute mother peeling a banana with her baby curled around her waist…

Gedi

 

The next thing I knew, this cheeky guy perched himself on my shoulder! I screamed in fright, while my family members burst out laughing…. We all became friends soon enough though 😀

Gedi

 

My brothers just rolled with it, as if it were the most normal thing in the world:)

Gedi

Gedi

Tip: Carry bananas to feed the monkeys; they are friendly and not all aggressive.

We met our nice guide Badi Khamisi who gave us a lovely guided tour of Gedi Ruins. A guided tour of the entire place costs Kshs. 500, which I would highly recommend.

He was such wealth of information, with great details on the History of Gedi. You could hear his love and pride for Gedi, echoed in his voice.

Khamisi sat us down for a while, as he explained the history of Gedi… I felt as though I was transported back to that G.H.C class with my teacher, Mr. Wambugu … Remember when Geography, History and Civics was still one subject? 😀

Gedi_Ruins

It would be difficult to cover the history of the Gedi ruins in just one blog post… This is better experienced in person.. Hint to visit 🙂 😉

A City Ahead Of Its Time

One of the most remarkable things about Gedi, is that many of the city’s structures were quite advanced for their time.

They crushed coral stones from the ocean, to create a powdered mixture that was used as cement. Many of these stone structures stand to date, and still look rather stable.

The ‘Gede Great Mosque’ is an example…

Gedi_Ruins

They roofs were made of “makuti” or coconut palm leaves, which is characteristic of most coastal households.

Gedi_Ruins

Gedi_Ruins

This structure within the mosque acted as a ‘microphone’. The Imam would stand there and his voice would be amplified to the rest of the city.

Gedi_Ruins

                Our guide Khamisi

The people of Gedi dug deep water holes, like the public water hole right outside the mosque. It was impressive to learn that they had a filtering system as early as the 15th Century. They would recycle water, after people had used it to wash their hands, head and feet.

Gedi

 

Apparently, digging of deep wells interfered with the water causing it to turn salty. The Oromo abandoned Gedi in search of fresh-water.

Additionally, is said that there was deadly plague in the area that contributed to its abandonment in the 17th Century.

Gedi_Ruins

 

Gedi was populated with both the rich and the poor, with about 2,000 people. The rich lived luxuriously, with their own private water wells, bathrooms and toilets. Interestingly, some even had indoor swimming pools. The poor had to share public amenities.

The city was divided into two by an inner and outer wall. Rich affluent people lived within the inner wall, while the poor lived on the outside.

Gedi_Ruins

 

Recent Developments in Gedi

Over time, trees have grown around the ancient structures giving it a picturesque finish. You will find baobab trees, for instance, aging between 300-350 years, some up to 1,500 years old. I was completely mesmerized by how green and wild the place is. I would call it a photographer’s “paradise”.

Most recently, a tree house has been constructed for visitors who would like to get a bird’s eye view.

Gedi_Ruins

In the year 2000, a museum was put up. You will find some items that were collected from the ruins, while some represent the Swahili culture.

Gedi_Ruins

Gedi_Ruins

Gedi

Gedi_Ruins

Gedi_Ruins

 

Kipepeo

Kipepeo (Swahili for butterfly) is a local initiative to conserve the environment, while also creating sustainable livelihoods for the community. It is in the same compound as the Gedi ruins.

Kipepeo

 

The community is engaged in production of natural animal products like butterfly and moth pupae, silk and honey, from the nearby Arabuko Sokoke Forest.  These products  are sold and marketed at Kipepeo.

Kipepeo

Kipepeo
There are little fragile butterflies everywhere, and you have to be careful not to step on them.

Kipepeo

Kipepeo

There are butterflies on display to show various types and species.

Kipepeo

Kipepeo

Kipepeo

 

Gedi Travel Tips:

  • Put on comfortable walking shoes as you will be on your feet most of the time
  • Carry some water and snacks
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing, plus a hat, as the sun gets hot
  • Buy bananas to feed the monkeys-they will appreciate you for it. 🙂 Try to stay calm when they approach- they are super friendly
  • It pays to have the guided tour at only Kshs.500 for the group. The guided tour is excellent, as the guide will furnish you with a detailed historical account of the ruins
  • It is quite affordable as Kenyan residents pay only Kshs. 100 per person, while non-residents pay Kshs. 200 for entry to each place
  • There is a Snake park in the same venue, if you are interested

 

It is pretty special to see structures that have been around for centuries. I would certainly recommend a visit to Gedi Ruins, as nothing beats first-hand experience. 🙂

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world~Gustave Flaubert

 

Have you been to the Gedi Ruins? I look forward to your comments and feedback, on the Comments’ Section below. 😉

Stay Inspired Always 🙂

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: MARION MITHAMO

          CURATED BY: WANJIKU THUO

 

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Dicie
    November 30, 2016 at 9:26 am

    This post has been well noted for action 😀

  • Reply
    Claude B
    August 20, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Kudos Marion you outdone yourself Again.. I love the read felt like I went 500 years back in time..
    Definitely on my list of places I have to visit while in Kenya..
    Loved the pictures very realistic some one get a clear understanding of how the ancient city of Gede
    Used to look like back in the days.. I was surprised by the lavish and luxurious lifestyle some of them (rich) had. I sincerely found the read exciting and captivating.. I also think we can probably learn a thing or two about their architecture if those walls still stand after 500 years; maybe that will change the perspective we have on ancient time maybe they were smarter and savy than we think.. Even the furnitures regardless of the years still have a contemporary look. Well What to say about ” Kipepeo”can’t wait to see that butterfly museum and taste that honey in that vintage decor..
    Thank you Marion and keep on doing your thing..what I just realized is.. In a way when you travel is that we all travel with you (Your followers)because of your ability of sharing your experiences of discovering new places we feel we have seen that place..

    So I will say I can’t for our next adventure..

    Cheers,

    Claude

    • Reply
      Scrapbook Journeys
      August 20, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Oh wow! Thank you Claude…I appreciate your comment, and it is my pleasure to share. I totally agree, there is so much we can learn from the ancient people of Gede, and their architecture. They are super impressive. 🙂 Yes, do stick around as we travel and discover the world around us 🙂 Many thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    mitha
    August 19, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    I recall the monkey incident never laughed so hard. Awesome read ,awesome pictures. LOVE IT

    • Reply
      Scrapbook Journeys
      August 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      Hahaha 😀 I remember it was a Snap-worthy moment for you! Lol Thanks for reading hun 😀

  • Reply
    Nesh Kanja
    August 19, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    The old city of Gedi,

    True that is one historical architectural place one needs to visit. Compared to our current building that are falling now n then, then you realize that interior design and decor has grown from years before time. Loved the cooling system at the reception area and wonder how they did that at such an ancient time.

    Thanks for sharing another another magical Kenya destination. Keep up with the good work.

    • Reply
      Scrapbook Journeys
      August 19, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      Thank you dear for reading and for the comment 🙂 Yes, that is so true…the structures at Gedi were way ahead of their time 🙂

  • Reply
    Margaret Kiama
    August 19, 2016 at 6:12 am

    Just lovely…:-)

    • Reply
      Scrapbook Journeys
      August 19, 2016 at 8:46 am

      Thank you Margaret 🙂 I hope that means you will plan to visit…hence my mission will be accomplished 🙂

  • Reply
    lornah
    August 18, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    FINALLY GEDE RUINS :-)!!! BEAUTIFUL…

    http://cherriesvineyard.com/

    • Reply
      Scrapbook Journeys
      August 18, 2016 at 8:01 pm

      Hehe, Yes finally…as promised and delivered 🙂 😉 Thanks for reading Lornah!

  • Reply
    Wanjiku Thuo
    August 18, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Would want to visit this Marion. Some things are better experienced but you have put it in an awesome way. Very Inviting.
    Bucket list.

    • Reply
      Scrapbook Journeys
      August 18, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Thank you Sue, I appreciate the feedback…When you visit, I will be hiding in your bag 😉 You and sir Nikon will love it 😀 Hehe 😀

  • Reply
    Patricia
    August 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    yaay I have been to Gede ruins and I loove the experience the vegetation and climate makes you forget how hot coast is, The old town is amazing with the buildings still standing strong unlike our buildings today which can collapse on you any time
    I still cdnt stand the monkey on my shoulder

    • Reply
      Scrapbook Journeys
      August 18, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      Hahaha, the monkeys meant well 😀 True though, construction in those days was totally stable…our builders today could borrow a leaf… 😀 Thanks for reading dear 😀

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