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Mambrui: The disappearing town

Wednesday March 14 2018

 The 'ghostly' Mambrui town. PHOTO| TOM MWRIRARIA

The 'ghostly' Mambrui town. PHOTO| TOM MWRIRARIA 

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Mambrui town, or at least what’s left of it, was once heavily affected by slave trade. Mambrui ,a settlement of 4000 people lies in Marikebuni, about 10kmfrom Sabaki along Malindi –Lamuroad North of Malindi.

Despite  the  creeping sand  dunes, the  slumbering  fishing  village is a destination for Islamic Pilgrims and it hosts Quran  schools. Mambrui’s golden age was the 15thCentury. It was built by Arab slave traders.

Today the once thriving Malindi Kingdom sits in outskirts of civilisation, covered by a blanket of silence. Inonly few decades, this haunting town will no longer exist in the face of the Earth because giant sand dunes are approaching to gobble it up according to UNESCO–Kenya National  Seminar  paper (1997) on Sustainable Coastal Development.

The sand dunes of  Mambrui town. PHOTO| TOM
The sand dunes of Mambrui town. PHOTO| TOM MWRIRARIA

The dunes are caused by raging sand storms. They  are creeping closer and  closer to the 200-year-old Qubaa mosque and the Mambrui primary and secondary schools.

One of the residents, Mzee Salim, stands by the side of his crumbling house. His aged and weakly eyes shift to the worn out side and becomes glazed with glassy layer of tears. He blinks, bites his lips and swallows unknown words that he wanted to gaggle out of his mouth after a long silence he speaks.


‘This is the last of the houses built here .It stood the test of time but now the winds have proved to be stronger. I have no money to build another house and I have no land elsewhere" he says in a quivering voice.

Mambrui gained archaeological interest after a discovery of iron slags, iron smelter, jade green shard of porcelain and Chinese coin of an early 15th Century, the era of the Yongle Emperor during the Ming Dynasty.

Mambrui beach. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA
Mambrui beach. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

The Kenyan and Chinese team working on the archaeological project in Mambrui, if successful, will unravel the date of East African Coast trade with the East. The archaeological work has caused jitters among the residents who suspect that the archaeologists are excavating to take away skeletons and artefacts of their ancestors.

Mzee Salim echoes another concern: "The cries of disturbed spirits are terrible; we do not want to hear them, let them for the peace of our hearts never take anything that belongs to the dead –bones or what else that might be buried with them."

The  low tide beach  stretches for about five kilometers to the north the Galana River estuary. Mambrui is one of the few beaches where  holiday makers  are  allowed to drive along Mambrui’s  best attraction ,Che  Chale  beach which is a lonely golden glittery and seemly endless stretch of sandy gold, vivid in the brilliant light.



Mambrui  settlement is  is  situated  at the East of Marikebuni ,South of Gongoni and , a 30-hour  drive North  of Malindi town, along  Malindi-Lamu road. Visitors looking for  tranquility can stay  at Nyumba ya  Ebenezer, Robert’s house , Mazuri home, Nyumba  Tisa , Mikida House, Che Shale and Angel’s  Bay Beach Resort. The  accommodation  rates range  from Sh6000 to Sh25 000 per night.