By Maina Kiarie
Mnarani Ruins were first gazetted in March 1929 as “Ruins of Mnarani” and later confirmed as monuments. Following subsequent legislations over the years (1935 and 1962) the Ruins are now known as the “Ruins of an Old Mosque in Kilifi”. Mnarani ruins are located on the south bank of the Kilifi Creek on Kenya’s northern coastline. Kilifi is located about half-way between Mombasa and Malindi.
The name ‘Mnarani’ is derived from ‘mnara’ which refers to a minaret or pillar. Today the name mnarani encompasses the whole town around Mnarani Ruins.
Mnarani was an Arab settlement in the 14th century. Archaeological evidence shows that the site was eventually destroyed by the Galla in the early 17th century. Among the ruins are remains of a large Friday (or Congregational) mosque, a smaller mosque, parts of the town, a gate and several tombs dating to the 15th century. The ruins of the ancient mosque have elaborate inscriptions and stone carvings. The mosque also has a mihrab with multiple arches and inscribed jambs. In addition, there are giant baobabs overlooking the ocean. In recent years, the pillar tomb at Mnarani was dismantled and reconstructed as a conservation measure to avoid potential collapse.
Mnarani ruins are a testament of the ancient Arab settlement at the coastal region. The area was a trading point for Arab dhows which sailed with the monsoon winds from the Persian gulf to trade along the East African coast.