Historic Sites

Historic Sites in Kenya

View of Gede Ruins in Kilifi County. Photo Courtesy of National Museums
View of Gede Ruins in Kilifi County. Photo Courtesy of National Museums

The stories of Kenya’s fascinating history are everywhere, immortalized in more than 100 historic sites in Kenya – gifts from our past to the future generations.  In every County in Kenya can be found historic sites where this rich history has been preserved; from the coastal towns, colonial relics, traditional shrines, ecclesiastical monuments and pre-historic sites.

Historic Sites in the Coast Region

For the casual visitor to the Coast Region of Kenya, Fort Jesus, Gedi Ruins, Jumba la Mtwana, Takwa Ruins and Siyu Fort are perhaps the most interesting and attractive sites.  They are among the dozens of well-studied and accessible sites along the Kenyan Coast.  Several of the historic sites in the Coast Region are composed of the old settlement areas and outlying groups of tombs. Romanticized as an early European military fortification, Fort Jesus Museum, which existed at a huge cost to life and liberty to the people of Mombasa, is the best known historic site in the Coast Region.

The Gede Ruins, which are just off the main Mombasa-Malindi Highway and which can be visited within a day from Mombasa or Malindi, are perhaps the most interesting of the reminders of the Arabic influence on the Coast Region of Kenya.  At Gede Ruins, there are extensive ruins of palaces, a walled ancient town, numerous tombs, and several important remains of large mosques which dates back to as early as the 13th Century.

Most of these ruins and monuments are protected under Chapter 215 of the Laws of Kenya, “The preservation of Objects of Archaeological and palaeontological Interest Ordinance.” By the same token, Chapter 215 of the Laws of Kenya also collates a list of these ruins and monuments, listed as protected under the Subsidiary Legislation of Chapter 215, as revised in 1962, taking special considering the historic sites in the Coast Region.

Historic Sites in Western and Rift Valley Region

Kenya contains several sites of fossil finds which are significant to the study of man’s evolution, early development and history. Historic sites in Western and Rift Valley region are mostly comprised of pre-historic sites depicting the early development and history of man. In the western part of Kenya, deposits have been found dating back over 20 million years. In Migori County can be found the Thimlich Ohinga Landscape which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017: “Thimlich Ohinga is the largest and best preserved of these traditional enclosures. It is an exceptional example of the tradition of massive dry-stone walled enclosures, typical of the first pastoral communities in the Lake Victoria Basin, which persisted from the 16th to the mid-20th century.

Further north, the Sibiloi National Park, which is famous throughout the world for its wildlife, also contains Koobi Foora Museum, the most significant of several historic sites in Kenya at which the remains of pre-historic man have been unearthed, to provide links in the chain of human evolution. Popularly known as the Cradle of Makind, Koobi Fora produced well preserved hominin fossils dating to as early as 2.1 million years have been discovered. 

Historic Sites in Central and Nairobi Region

In many respects, the impact of colonialism was far-reaching and certainly destined to affect the future course of events in Kenya. But in other respects, it was not.  Before the scramble of Africa, many communities in Kenya had adjusted themselves to their ecological needs, kinship and collective production. The advent of colonialism only gave new shape, meaning and direction to the communities dynamism.  With the exception of Nairobi, founded in 1898, there were only 4 localities with a population in excess of 2,000 inhabitants by 1901, all of which were coastal port towns.

The hinterland was devoid of cities and the various non-coastal tribes such as the Kikuyus, the Kalenjins, the Luhyas, the Luos and the Maasais were very poor. These ethnic groups were geographically separated by the Rift Valley which also served as a buffer zone between them.  The creation of the Protectorate in 1895 established peace over the whole country. A decade before independence, Kenya was dominated by the Mau Mau Uprising against British rule.  In 1956, the Mau Mau Resistance was defeated. It is on this premise that many of the historic sites in Central and Nairobi regions of Kenya stem from.

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