Mbaraki Pillar

Located west of the Likoni Ferry roundabout, Mbaraki Pillar continues to be a source of deep controversy among historians and archaeologists as to its purpose. Local folklore tells of an ancient Arab spirit that possesses powerful magical healing abilities that resides within its walls.

There are those who believe this 300-year old pillar may have been the tomb of an important person. James Kirkman, the first curator of Fort Jesus, strongly believed it may have been the tomb of a Sheikh of the Changamwe people who lived in Mbaraki.

Mbaraki Pillar is recognized gazetted as a national monument in Kenya. After Fort Jesus, Mbaraki is the second oldest monument in Kenya but is often overshadowed by Fort Jesus which happens to be a World Heritage site. Made of coral stone and still in its original form, the pillar leans at a slight angle almost like the leaning tower of Pizza in Italy.

About 5 M from the pillar is a small mosque with a large prayer room, 2 anterooms and stone-built cisterns for storing water on its north-eastern and south-western corners. The mosque was constructed between 1400 and 1450 AD and had fallen to complete ruin by 1550 AD before being rebuilt in 1988.

There are three theories as t how the Pillar was used. Native lore claims that an Arab spirit of healing resides here, and women would pray and worship at the base of the tower to be granted fertility in bearing children. Those who were sick would leave offerings, in hopes of improved health.

Another theory is that a sheik, or elder, was buried here, and the tower is his tomb. A lack of burial chambers and being in no way similar to other pillar tombs of the Changamwe people poke quite a few holes in this theory.

The most probable explanation is that a pillar is an early form of a lighthouse. Standing fifty feet high, the Pillar can easily be seen from the sea. The open turret topping the tower would allow the placement of some sort of beacon and is located near the entrance to a creek give the lighthouse theory a solid foundation.

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