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Dickinson College

Publication Date

Fall 2012

Program Name

Kenya: Islam and Swahili Cultural Identity


Archaeological site, Gedi Ruins, is well known on the Coastal Province of Kenya as a place of great mystery. It is sacred to many for reasons of spirituality and appeals to both Swahili and Mijikenda, a group of nine tribes living on the coast, as a place of prayer. The Giriama make up one of these nine tribes and, as they have a large community surrounding the site of Gedi Ruins, are the focus of this study. The Mijikenda have a deep connection with their ancestral spirits as well as jinn. While their traditions run deep, there have, however, been great changes to their belief system since the introduction of Islam, as many have converted. The goal of this study is to examine each of these; ancestral spirits, jinn, Islam and their effects on the Giriama separately and then use them to see if these beliefs have aided in the preservation of Gedi Ruins. In turn, this study revealed that Gedi Ruins and the Giriama community surrounding it have a symbiotic relationship. Each relies on the other to keep it afloat. While there are many issues that can be brought forth, it is clear that they aid each other in preservation.


History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Social and Cultural Anthropology