The ruins of Gedi, a mysterious 11th-century ghost town located in a thick forest in Kenya

Another historical site that corrects the assumption that Africa was far behind before the influence of the colonisers is the spectacular and mysterious ‘Ghedi ghost town’ as it is popularly called. The breathtaking site is located in Kenya and hidden in the Arabuko Sokoke forest.

The city is located in the thick forests 65 miles north of Mombasa and south of Malindidense in Kenya north. Throughout history, there are no mentions of this empire in Arab, Portuguese or early European traders notes. Very little is known of how this kingdom came to be and the people that inhabited it. The medieval settlement stretched from present-day Somalia and Mozambique with most of it in Kenya.

A visit to the city takes tourists through the walled community with stone and coral-brick houses. Like many ghost towns found in Africa, such as the kilwa Kisiwani in neighbouring Tanzania, Gedi boasts of a vast palace that housed the royals and their family and a royal mosque. A walk through the well-planned streets and houses with flushing toilets shows that the city was not only wealthy but very advanced in social standards and technology. The city also boasts of running water.

Venetian glass from Italy, Ming Chinese vases, and Pottery from all over the world found in the town indicate contact with other empires through trade. The wealth of the city is exhibited in the way the houses were built. Each house had its private courtyard and a forecourt with at least three rooms.

The large palace had residential rooms, audience court, royal court and a big reception court. Smaller mosques also existed in the community with bigger houses having mosques built close to their homes. A few mud houses exist at the outskirts of the city and could have been home to the poorer inhabiters or farmers of Gedi.

Discovered in 1884, no follow-ups were made until the late 1920s when the British East African government rediscovered it. Since its excavation in 1948, the city has been reserved as a Kenyan National Park where tourists from all over the world visit to experience for themselves the magnificence of this less-known ancient African society.

It is believed that the ancient empire possibly started as early as 11th century seeing its prime between the 13th to 15th century. With about 2,500 settlers, it was largely inhabited by Muslims who isolated themselves giving a reason for the location of their settlement. The city used its expensive and rare bead collection as well as cowry as its currency. Thousands of cowries have been discovered after years of being locked up in storerooms in the houses and palaces.

The great city was abandoned in the 17th century either through the invasion of the Portuguese or the forceful abandoning of the city as ancient East Africans began to settle closer to this civilization.

It remains an enigma how there are no records of such a thriving and magnificent civilization that existed in Africa. No human monuments or carvings have been found yet and there seems to be no form of historical recordings by the people themselves.

Small villages and communities that have settled close to the ghost town believe that the Gedi is now inhabited by the spirits of the ancestors who are currently protecting what remains of it.

Tourists, lovers of history and archaeology will be blown away after a visit to the mysterious Gedi ghost town.


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