By Maina Kiarie
Takwa Ruins are the remains of a once thriving Swahili settlement situated on the south side of Manda Island, Lamu district in the coastal province of Kenya. The ruins lie across the channel and up a narrow mangrove creek only approachable by boat, a ride that takes about 30 minutes from Lamu.
These relatively well preserved ruins were first excavated by James Kirkman in 1951, then in 1972 more clearing of the site was done under the supervision of James de Vere Allen. There are remains of coral built houses, mosque, pillar tomb and a city wall rising to a height of 3metres . The town had two dug-out wells, one right outside the town wall and the other on the east side of the mosque.
On August 1, 1977, Takwa Ruins were officially opened to the public and five years later, in 1982, the ruins were gazetted as a national monument. This settlement is believed to have been founded around the 15th century and abandoned two centuries later, in the 17th century.
Notable features include one of the best preserved buildings at Takwa – the unique Friday mosque named Jamaa mosque with a large pillar atop the north wall, believed to have been the burial place of a revered person. Also in the north wall or qibla, pointing to the direction of Mecca is the Mihrab, a semi-cirular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla i.e. the direction that Muslims should face when praying. It is the largest surviving structure at Takwa whose doors all face north, Mecca, giving the feeling that this was a holy city. The mosque is located near the geographical centre of the site.
The ruins nest amidst giant baobab trees. Some of the ruins are a bit indecipherable with some almost completely reduced to dust.