Sites & cities that bear the name of Malindi


Today in : Kenya
First trace of activity : 850 C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Mélinde

Description : Malindi (known as Melinde in antiquity) is a town on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River, lying on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. It is 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa. The population of Malindi was 119,859 as of the 2019 census. It is the largest urban centre in Kilifi County. Malindi developed as part of the emerging Swahili Civilization in the 5th–10th centuries. Bantu-speaking farmers moved into the area, where they smelted iron, built timber and wattle houses thatched with palm leaves, spoke a local dialect of kiSwahili, and engaged in regional and sometimes long-distance trade. The resurgence of the Indian Ocean trade networks at the end of the first millennium led to larger settlements, increased long-distance trade, and greater social complexity. Beginning in the 11th century, the Swahili along the coast were acting as middlemen for Somali, Egyptian, Nubian, Arab, Persian, and Indian traders. They began building walled towns, coral houses, and elites converted to Islam, often speaking Arabic. The Malindi Kingdom appears to have been formed around the 9th century AD, and to have grown powerful in the two centuries before Vasco de Gama ushered in Portuguese colonization of the region, the latter leading to the decline of the civilization. The city of Malindi, founded around 850 AD, was in a somewhat more northerly location than the modern city, and appears to have been destroyed around 1000 AD. There are sparse signs of habitation for the next two centuries, then recovery and prosperity in the 1200s. The first written reference to the present day Malindi likely comes from Abu al-Fida (1273–1331), a Kurdish geographer and historian. He wrote that Malindi is situated to the south of the mouth of the river, which begins in the Mountain of Comr hundreds of kilometres away. This mountain may be Mount Kenya, where Galana River originates. Therefore, Malindi has existed as a Swahili settlement since at least the 13th century. Once rivalled only by Mombasa for dominance in this part of East Africa, Malindi has traditionally been a port city. In 1414, the town was visited by the fleet of the Chinese explorer Zheng He. Malindi's ruler sent a personal envoy with a giraffe as a present to China on that fleet. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama met Malindi authorities in 1498 to sign a trade agreement and hire a guide for the voyage to India, when he erected a coral pillar. Vasco da Gama was given a warm reception from the Shiek of Malindi, which contrasted with the hostile reception he encountered in Mombasa. The pillar stands to this day, though there have been calls by conservationists to take care of it, since soil erosion might make the pillar fall into the ocean. It is a fairly popular tourist attraction for both local and international tourists. In 1498 Malindi was a prosperous town with a population between 5,000 and 10,000. The majority of the population was Muslim by this period, having converted largely between the 13th and 14th centuries. Like other Medieval Swahili towns, the ruling class or wazee was made up of the heads of the wealthiest patrician families. Similar to other Bantu-speaking peoples, these clan leaders elected a mwenye mui or chief who spoke on behalf of the patricians. The Portuguese mistakenly titled these individuals "Kings," misunderstanding the nature of Swahili political organization. The wazee spoke both Swahili and Arabic, and claimed mythological origins from the East, most often Persia.

See on map »