Kenya travel guide

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Malindi Travel Guide

Malindi History

Malindi's history goes back hundred of years, today, Malindi is a multi-cultural location with African, Arab, Asian and European influences.

Before the arrival of Arab, Malindi most likely did not exist. The trading stations that existed gradually spread their roots and an Arab-African culture emerged as the visitors mingled with the local people. By the 13th Century, were built permanent stone settlements, city-states emerged and Malindi was founded as a town.

By the 14th Century, Malindi was an important Swahili settlement, once rivaled only by Mombasa for control of this part of East Africa during the 14th and 15th Century.

In 1414, Malindi was visited by the fleet of the Chinese explorer Zheng He. The Sultan of Malindi sent a giraffe, Oryx and a zebra as a present to China on that fleet.

On the 15th April 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed in Malindi, to sign a trade agreement and hire a guide for the voyage to India. The sultan of Malindi, who was having a spat with his rival in Mombasa, began a friendly relationship with the Portuguese. A church dates from this era. The pillar stands to this day. Malindi was developed as the centre of Portuguese influence on the coast until the building of Fort Jesus in Mombasa.

The economy consisted of agriculture, with large plantations of lemons, oranges, coconut palm trees, rice, sugar cane and trade with various ports in the Indian Ocean.

Throughout the 15th Century, Malindi was an important port in East Africa. A trade in ivory and slaves for three centuries took place in Malindi. Slavery was abolished in 1873.

In the beginning of the 16th century, Malindi was selected as a supply station by the Portuguese. But in the first half of this Century the wealth of Malindi was declining, by the constant harassing of Indian and Arab vessels from the Portuguese. In 1593, with the construction of the Portuguese Fort Jesus in Mombasa, the Portuguese administration was transferred to Mombasa. After 1666 the Portuguese lost completely control of Malindi.

In the end of 17th Century, Galla people controlled most parts of the coastal of Kenya; most Arabs abandoned Malindi and moved to Mombasa. From the end of 17th Century until the middle of the 19th Century, Malindi was sparsely populated, when the Galla were defeated by the combination of Masai and Somali incursions.

The Sultan of Zanzibar refounded Malindi in 1861, Malindi's wealth increased from 1861 to 1890. In 1873, the slave trade became illegal, in 1890 the Sultan of Zanzibar promulgated a Anti-Slavery Decree, which allowed the slaves to buy themselves free, the slavery was finally abolished in 1907.

Malindi developed as a tourist centre since the late 1920ís and early 1930ís, when some Europeans come to Malindi to spend a short vacation in the sea. In 1932 opened the Bradyís Palm Beach Hotel and in 1934 the Lawfordís Hotel. Ernest Hemingway used to frequent Malindi to pursue marlin, sailfish and Wahoo.

By 1960s, tourism developed greatly with new hotels. Initially it was a favored resort of East African Residents and visitors from England, France, Switzerland and Germany, lately the main tourist groups are Italians.

Malindi as a great historic town, have been transformed into a reputable destination of tourism importance.


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