By Maina Kiarie
Pate island is located in the Indian Ocean in the northern coast of Kenya, between the towns of Lamu and Kiunga, close to the border with Somalia . It is the largest island in the Lamu Archipelago (a string of five islands -Pate, Manda, Lamu, Kiwayu and Manda Toto). Pate island is about 2 hours by ferry from Lamu island. Its shores are surrounded by dense mangroves and is more easily reached at high tide.
Pate island comprises of several settlements or towns including Faza, Pate, Siyu, kizingitini and Shanga. Faza town on the north coast, known to the Portuguese by the name Ampaza, is the main administrative centre in Pate and dates back to at least the 14th century.
South-west of the island lies Pate town, a town best known for its fine houses with extensive elaborate plaster works, fine arts, intricate jewellery, fine cloths and fine wooden furniture dating back to the 18th century. Pate town, a centre of trade and learning, is famous for the production and use of the musical instrument known as Siwa, two of which have been discovered to date. They are on display at Lamu museum.
On the north coast of the island apart from Faza town lies Siyu town. This town achieved historical fame for having withstood several battles against the Sultans of Zanzibar. When it finally succumbed to Zanzibar’s dominance in 1863, it was one of the last towns on the entire East African coast to do so. Siyu town is the only Swahili settlement along the East African coast with a fortified fort built by local inhabitants.
Kizingitini situated on the north coast (east of Faza), slightly north of Rasini, is the largest fishing port on the island.
On the south-east coast of the island lies Shanga town, an archaeological site with extensive and varied ruins. According to archaeological evidence the earliest settlement in Shanga is dated to the 8th