Amidst the upbeat Mtwapa town, it’s almost unbelievable that there remains a place unscathed with the changes and developments taking place around it.
It isn’t exactly clear as to the genesis of its existence and the mystery that shrouds the place is what makes the Jumba La Mtwana ruins ( an ancient settlement with as much archaeological grandeur as the more famous Gede Ruins) even more interesting.
Who built these buildings and to what aim? There are no historical records on the settlement, however given the name Jumba La Mtwana “Large house of the slave”, some believe that the ruins may have played host to the slave trade. This theory however is highly dismissible there being lack thereof archaelogical evidence that suggests that this may have been the case.
In an attempt to depict the mystery, what is now known of Jumba La Mtwana, has been deduced from the ruins which were excavated by James Kirkman in 1972. The remains of this 14th century settlement were likely built around 1350, inhabited and then abandoned a century later. It is not certain whether ‘Jumba la Mtwana’ was the settlement’s name at the time of occupation. However, one thing that is certain is that the inhabitants were Muslim evidenced by the ruins of 4 mosques, washing platform and water cisterns.
Jumba la Mtwana also known as “Jumba Ruins” was opened to the public in 1973 and was gazetted as a national monument in 1982. It is located approximately 20km (15km north of Mombasa, 3km off the Mombasa-Malindi road, 2.8km on the road leading to the sea at the junction next to Picana factory) north of Mombasa in Mtwapa.
Constitutes of the ruins: Old coral stone walls of 4 mosques, 4 domestic houses (These houses include the House of the Cylinder, The House of the Kitchen, The House of the Many Pools, which had three phases, and the Great Mosque) and a tomb which have survived in recognizable condition situated among huge baobab trees on grassy slopes that descend to the sea. Excavations of the site have revealed numerous artefacts including decorated local pottery and shell beads, imported Chinese and Islamic ceramics, and glass beads.
It is very likely that the site’s strategic position was selected because of the presence of fresh water, exposure to the North East and South East breezes which would keep the people cool and its safe location from external attacks by sea since it had no harbor, thus larger vessels had to anchor along way offshore, or move probably in Mtwapa creek.
Seeing as people only subscribe to several theories of its existence, one can only therefore guess reasons for its eventual desertion subject to further research, namely trade interruption, hostile invasion or a failure in water supply.