House of Slaves – JUMBA RUINS

Let’s get ready for a mysterious history about 14th-century settlers, the visitors to the Kenyan coast.

Jumba ruins commonly known by locals as jumba la mtwana. A Swahili term meaning house of slave (jumba – big house mtwana- slave)
It is gazetted as national monument by the Kenya national museum. One is charged minimal entrance fee at the gate Kshs 100 for adult Kenyan citizen.

Jumba ruins is believed to be settlement of visitors mostly Muslims during the 14th century. The evidence of their faith is availability of 3 mosque ruins which still have the sign of the mihrab. The most outstanding mosque is the one by the beach. The door and the mihrab are still very intact.

Apart from the mosques there is also ruins of 4 houses. They were given names based on what was found or how it looked like. The names of the houses are:

  • House of many doors
  • House of many pools
  • House of cylinder
  • House of the kitchen

The ruins are located securely on the shores of Kenyan coast at Kilifi county. Jumba ruins can be accessed from Mtwapa as it lies close to the Mtwapa creek.

The location was ideal for the settlers who are believed to be traders because of:

  • ┬áIt is located on the north east and south east breeze (monsoon winds) Remember those history classes about traders sailing using the monsoon winds?
  • Availability of fresh water underground. They dug wells and had constant supply of fresh water.
  • The shore of the ocean had no harbor hence no ship could dock. This assured them of no external attacks from the sea. And if a ship docked at the nearby creek( now known as Mtwapa creek) they would be able to see them and get ready for the attack.

The ruins even though it is dilapidated, one can be able to see the structure of the settlement. The walls of the houses were built using coral stones stack together with motor lime. The doors were arched and the roofs made of wood have long decayed.

There are no historical records kept of the ruins. Jumba ruins still remains a mystery as some speculate that it was a host of slaves. Probably from the coined name by the locals.

Apart from the ruins, there are various baobab trees making the place to have a cool environment. It is ideal for a picnic site just by the beach.

The wells that were dug by the settlers are still there some covered to avoid accidents by those visiting the place. One thing that tries to prove the settlers were traders is a sperm whale skeleton. The skeleton is placed near the entrance of the ruins.The sperm whale excretion was sort after for the perfume industry.

It is believed that the settlers moved because they were experiencing some challenges;

  • The wells dried up and darkened hence there was no fresh water supply.
  • They were externally attacked by invaders forcing them to move.
  • There was decrease in trade activities within the time.

Walking along the ruins was really something else. I got the actual feeling of walking through history that is quite not fully understood yet. Trying to imagine how the people actually lived in the that century.

They left with no traces for historians to have a solid opinion on what they actually did. Were they really just actual traders or they were slave trading? Were the locals right calling the place Jumba la Mtwana and there where no slaves inside?

This is quite a mystery that no one has been able to crack in centuries.

If you plan on visiting the place

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