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Jumba La Mtwana

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Nestled in the tropical paradise of Mtwapa, along the shimmering shores of the Indian Ocean, lies the mysterious and captivating Jumba La Mtwana. Translating to “Mansion of the Slaves” in Kiswahili, Jumba La Mtwana is a breath-taking blend of history and nature.

James Kirkman excavated Jumba La Mtwana in 1972 and opened it to the public in 1973. The Kenyan government gazetted Jumba La Mtwana as a national monument in 1982 and protects it under the Antiquities and Monuments Act. The National Museums of Kenya manages Jumba La Mtwana.

This once thriving Swahili town, now a shadow of its former self, spreads across 12 acres of lush vegetation with towering baobab trees and a pristine beach as its backdrop.

History 

The date of construction is still being determined, but it is estimated to have been built between the 14th and 15th centuries. It was later abandoned in the 15th century for unknown reasons. Possible causes for the town’s abandonment include disease outbreaks, changes in trade routes, and natural disasters. Some believe the residents may have relocated to nearby towns or other parts of the country for better trade opportunities.

Features of Jumba La Mtwana

Visitors can explore the remnants of four ancient mosques, four domestic houses, and a tomb, all of which offer a glimpse into the daily life of the Swahili people who lived there over 600 years ago. Excavations of the site have uncovered several artefacts’, including decorated local pottery, shell beads, imported Chinese and Islamic ceramics, and glass beads, all of which provide insight into the maritime trade that flourished in the area. The “House of Many Doors” is believed to have been a hub of activity, hosting visiting traders who waited for favourable winds in the Indian Ocean. A small gallery showcases a collection of fascinating artefacts, including silver jewellery, boat-making tools, and Chinese ceramics, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage of the Jumba ruins.

Turtle conservation

In addition to its rich history and cultural significance, Jumba La Mtwana is also a vital site for sea turtle conservation. The pristine beach and lush vegetation provide a secluded refuge for the Green Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle to nest and lay their eggs.

These turtle species, the Green Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle, frequently nest on Kenya’s shores, with Jumba La Mtwana serving as one of the 22 known nesting beaches.

Activities to be enjoyed

Visitors can enjoy various activities at Jumba La Mtwana, including guided tours, photography, hiking, birdwatching, swimming, and picnicking. The peaceful atmosphere and beautiful surroundings make it an ideal spot to relax and enjoy nature.

Admission fees

The admission fee for adults is KSH 100 for citizens, KSH 400 for residents, and KSH 500 for non-residents. For those under 16 years of age, the admission fee is KSH 50 for citizens, KSH 200 for residents, and KSH 250 for non-residents. 

Hours

The site is open from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Contacts

For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Justine Mudzomba at hashimhinzano@yahoo.com or by telephone at 0713942881.

Location

Mtwapa, Kilifi County, Kenya.

Google maps

Extra resource: Museums of kenya

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Fort Jesus

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The Portuguese built Fort Jesus in 1593. The site chosen was a coral ridge at the entrance to the harbor. Fort Jesus was designed by an Italian Architect and Engineer, Joao, Batista Cairato. The earliest known plan of the Fort is in a manuscript Atlas by Manuel Godinho de Heredia – dated 1610 which shows the original layout of the buildings inside the Fort.

Fort Jesus was built to secure the safety of Portuguese living on the East Coast of Africa. It has had a long history of hostilities of the interested parties that used to live in Mombasa. Perhaps no Fort in Africa has experienced such turbulence as Fort Jesus. Omani Arabs attacked the Fort from 1696 to 1698. The state of the Fort can be understood from the plan of Rezende of 1636 and other plans by Don Alvaro? Marquis of Cienfuegas and Jose? Lopes de Sa – made during the brief reoccupation by the Portuguese in 1728 – 1729. In the Cienfuegas plan, the names of the bastions are changed.

Between 1837 and 1895, the Fort was used as barracks for the soldiers. When the British protectorate was proclaimed on the 1st of July 1895, the Fort was converted into a prison. The huts were removed and cells were built. On the 24th October 1958, Fort Jesus was declared a National Park in the custody of the Trustees of the Kenya National Parks. Excavation was carried out and the Fort became a Museum in 1962. The Fort is now an important historical landmark in the East African region.

The Fort Jesus museum was built with a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation. The exhibits consist of finds from archaeological excavations at Fort Jesus, Gede, Manda, Ungwana and other sites. Other objects on display were donated by individuals notably Mrs. J.C. White, Mr. C.E. Whitton and Mrs. W.S. Marchant. The Fort has lived through the years of hostilities and a hush climate and is structurally well maintained.

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