Mnarani Ruins is located above the old abandoned ferry closing at Kilifi and about 200 m from the Kilifi Bridge. The location is on Malindi Road in Mombasa, opposite the Mnarani Club. If driving from Malindi or Mombasa, the ruins are 100 m beyond the Kilifi Bridge past the Mnarani junction.
The Mnarani ruins are the remains of two mosques near Mnarani in Kilifi County, Kenya. Mnarani ruins overlook Kilifi Creek from the southern side, 200 metres from the Mombasa-Malindi highway. The ruins are at the top of 107 steps you must climb to get a spectacular view.
What is the meaning of Mnarani?
Mnarani is a Swahili word derived from the word ‘Mnara’ meaning a minaret or a religious pillar. Today the name Mnarani encompasses the whole town around the so-called Mnarani Ruins. The Ruins were first gazetted in March 1929 as “Ruins of Mnarani” and later confirmed as monuments. Following subsequent legislations over the years (1935 and 1962) the Ruins are now known as the “Ruins of an Old Mosque in Kilifi”. Now the all area is under the National Museums of Kenya.
What is the history of the Mnarani Ruins?
Mnarani was an Arab settlement in the 14th century. At that time, traders from Oman used to sail with the monsoon winds from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean and land on the Kenya coast. In less than a hundred years their business flourished and Mnarani settlement became the residence of many of them, including fishermen and farmers.
Archaeological evidence shows that the site was eventually destroyed by the Galla in the early 17th century. It’s said that one of the first Galla (also known as Oromo) attacks happened around the 16th century when the fierce and fighting tribe from northeastern countries raided the ancient Swahili settlement after learning that the Arabs had captured their men and women and planned to sell them as slaves overseas.
The frequent attacks were not the only reason for the decline of Mnarani society. Portuguese presence (testified by some dishes found on site) was a serious threat but especially low water supply caused the Arabs to flee and settle in other Coastal towns, which were safe and had good water supply. Some of the farmers and fishermen remained there, but Galla people burned down the village and killed all their cattle. They reigned in Kilifi for a short period until Portuguese armed troops chased them away. In 1950, James Kirkman, a British archaeologist found several remnants, including 14 lamps.
Now the ruins are at the top of 107 steps you must climb to get a spectacular view. Chirping birds and the sound of rattling leaves blowing in the breeze from the sea set the ambience. A glance into Mnarani Ruins reveals how was ordinary daily life in those ancient times.
Among the ruins are remains of a large mosque, a smaller mosque, parts of the town, a gate and several tombs dating to the 15th century, when a reconstruction of the mosque was done after the collapse of the earlier building. The best-preserved ruin is the Great Mosque, with its finely carved inscription around the mihrab (prayer niche showing the direction of Mecca) with multiple arches and inscribed jambs.
Interestingly, the inscriptions on the tombs and the mosques here are written in Persian language, suggesting that the early settlers in Mnarani were Persians from Oman. Only one tomb bears the name of Shaykh Isa Ibn Shayah Nahafah, written in ancient Arabic. Under the minaret lies the skeleton of the supposed founder of the town. The foundations of the great and smaller mosque, which are located in the eastern tower, are still intact.
The mosque comprises six sections: a well where water was fetched and stored in a tank to be used before prayers, a baraza where sandals were placed before entering the mosque, a worship area for women and men, an imams’ changing room and a pulpit, which is known as “kibla” by Muslims. At the ruins also lies a dried-up 75-foot deep well and remnants of coral reefs and logs arranged in a conical shape. The ancient Swahilis would burn the logs to produce limestone powder for construction.
Mnarani Ruins Today
Mnarani Ruins has a clean compound and is a perfect spot for picnics and for nature lovers to connect with the past. Not only the mosques, the thick baobab trees and several tombs at the Mnarani Ruins in Kilifi are favourite attractions. Hundreds of people around the world travel to this site, a place where believers pray and offer sacrifices to God.
The cool breeze blowing from the Indian Ocean and the scenic, peaceful, beautiful garden at Mnarani ruins make it the perfect place to relax, meditate or pray. You can feel the mystical aura in the shade of the monstrous old baobab trees on the edge of the bluff and just beyond the walls of the main complex. The largest is a right-royal 900-year-old beauty. Among the Mijikenda, the baobab was a sacred tree where villages made sacrifices to the ancestors and prayed for rain and blessings. Mnarani site also has a Museum and a snake park where local snake species can be viewed. Often, a local guide is available to show you around the ruins.
Mnarani Ruins Entry Fees
The serene and clean grounds and the cool breezes from the Indian Ocean make the Mnarani Ruins a prime picnic site. Visitors can stroll around the ruins and into the adjoining forest with a guide. The museum also runs a snake park and rescue centre. It costs Kshs 500 per person. The entrance fees include the stipend for the guide.
Mnarani Ruins Opening Hours
Opens daily from 7.00 am and closes at 6.00 pm.
Mnarani Ruins Contacts
Phone: +2547339 977 215