Jumba la Mtwana, or Jumba Ruins as it is more popularly referred to, is a hidden historical site found in the buzzing town of Mtwapa, popularly known for its Creekside restaurants and beautiful sea views.
I am going to start this post with a confession that despite being born and raised in Mombasa, I had not made it to these ruins before. Sometimes it takes leaving a place to reflect, respect and appreciate what you had right in front of you and it is only now that I truly appreciate how rife with history Mombasa actually is and I have so much interest in putting all the puzzles together of the various centuries and the different influences it had on how Mombasa is today both culturally, architecturally and especially its impact on food, ingredients available and general lifestyle. That is what brought me to visit the site on a recent trip.
The ruins tell part of a story of a civilization during what was believed to be the 14th century, at a time when the East African coast was a significant trade hub and thriving commercially. The name Jumba la Mtwana is Kiswahili and translates as “House of the Slave”, which possibly tells another part of the tale. I did try to research more about the 14th century but struggled to find much as most documented history begins from the 15th century onwards so if anyone is a history buff and knows more please do get in touch!
The ruins are located close to the beach and many of the buildings which you see today at the site were excavated in 1972 by James Kirkman. There appears to be several houses, mosques and a tomb within the site.
In 1982, the year I was born (telling my age now), was when it was considered to be a national monument. Rumour has it that there may still be more ruins around the site which have not yet been uncovered so in future I would like to return and see if any more is known about the residents of this town.
What is speculated is that they abandoned the site in the 15th century as they ran out of fresh water supplies. This has not been documented or confirmed anywhere so is down to pure speculation. The 15th century is also when the Portuguese arrived and they were known to notoriously burn and rob various towns during their time on the island.
What interested me were the use of arches which was prominent in the design, the materials used for the buildings which was coral rock, and the way they were spaciously spread out across the site. The site itself is gorgeous with lots of trees and flowers and the subtle sound of the ocean in the near distance and the sweet chirping of birds.
I have to say I was slightly disappointed with the museum on site as I felt it could have given a little more information about the artefacts on display to try and paint a bigger picture and I was also shocked with how few people I spoke to in Kenya actually knew these ruins even existed. I am trying to change that though with this blog post as visiting the ruins has an extra benefit and incentive to it!
An amazing restaurant at the end of the trail which is a real hidden gem. If you love seafood it is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!
The Monsoon restaurant is a gorgeous beach front restaurant with the most incredible fresh seafood I have tried in Mombasa. It is worth the trip to Mtwapa and not only do you get to see Jumba Ruins, you get to eat a fabulous meal with a view too!
To start with we shared salt and pepper prawns, which was on the specials menu. I then chose the Lobster Garlic Butter and Pili Pili for my mains, which was amazing, and my lunch partner went for the Old Town Fish Fillet.
The presentation of the food, the service and the flavours were all top notch and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal.
To refresh ourselves I went for a Mojito (obviously) and my partner had a beer. The mojito was spot on and delicious and the perfect accompaniment to a superb meal.
The hospitality of the chef Aziza and her husband was amazing and I can’t wait to go back the next time I am in Mombasa.
So if you are looking for an alternative day out in Mombasa I recommend a late morning day trip to Jumba Ruins combined with lunch at Monsoon restaurant! You will want to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the gorgeous venue with a bottle of wine or dessert and with the sea breeze cooling you from the intense Mombasa heat – trust me!
For more information about Monsoon restaurant click here.