Bob Godec plants a tree at Gede National Monument

Bob Godec at Gede
American Ambassador to Kenya, Bob Godec, plants a tree at the Gede National Monument (Photo: Twitter/ashikoyeO)

After visiting Watamu and helping to release a turtle back into the wild, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Robert ‘Bob’ Godec, has today planted a tree at the Gede National Monument.

Gede is located in coast province, Kilifi district. It lies 16 km south of Malindi town and approximately 90 km North East of Mombasa.

The Gede ruins are the remains of a Swahili town and one of the Arab-African settlements found along the East-African coast in Watamu.

The Gede ruins are the remains of a Swahili town. The settlement’s origin can back to the twelfth century, but it was rebuilt with new town walls in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This rebuilding is connected with the emigration of many citizens of Kilwa to Mombasa, Malindi and other locations along the coast.

Due to its numerous inhabitants, the town became wealthy and it reached its peak in the fifteenth century.

The town’s enormous wealth is clear in the ruins which include a conglomeration of mosques, a magnificent palace and houses all nestled in 45 acres of primeval forest.

Ruins of the Great Mosque in Gede
Ruins of the Great Mosque in Gede. Photo: I, Mgiganteus (used under the Creative Commons Licence)

At its peak of prosperity about 2,500 people lived in Gede, but in the first half of the seventeenth century the last families left the town.

This abandonment of Gede is believed to be due to a number of factors:

  • The Wazimba raid along the East African coast in 1589
  • The removal of the Sheikh of Malindi and the Portuguese to Mombasa in 1593
  • The falling water table as shown by the deepening of the well outside the Great Mosque
  • The threat of the Galla, a hostile nomadic ethnic group from Somalia.
Stone slab at Gede
Stone slab with original Arabic inscriptions that was used to date the site. Photo: I, Mgiganteus (used under the Creative Commons Licence)

Gee was the first intensively studied site on the coast and initially visited by Sir John Kirk, a British resident of Zanzibar in 1884.

In 1927, it was listed as a Historical Monument and two years later was declared a “protected monument”.

In the late thirties, the Public Works Department carried out work on preservation of its crumbling walls and in 1948 Gede was declared a National park and an archaeologist was appointed as warden.

Thus, the first archaeological work at Gede began under the direction of James Kirkman followed by the first publication about the site. In 1969, Gede’s administration was taken over by the Museum Trustees.

Currently the Monument is under the care of the National Museums of Kenya,
and in addition to being avery important archaeological site its indigenous forest is a sacred site for traditional rituals and sacrifices for the surrounding community.