Rediscovering Siyu,Lamu

You may never have heard of Siyu, or maybe heard of it but not quite sure where it is. I picked on this place up for review because of its rich history. Siyu is found in Pate Island, North of Lamu. It once was a thriving metropolis and a major centre of Islamic learning.

At the height of its influence during the 17th and 18 centuries, its population reached more than 30,000. As of now, there are less than 4,000 people in this small town of Siyu.

It was gazetted in 1958 by the government of Kenya as a National Monument.

Here are some few facts about Siyu

  • Near the town are Shanga ruins, a hard-to-find site with remains dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. They are possibly the oldest ruins on the Kenyan coast. Some excavations have been made before and there are close to 140 houses, tombs,  2 mosques and a palace. This is a remarkable example of medieval Swahili town.
  • Siyu Fort is found here and it is a well-preserved coral structure dating back to 19th century. It is thought it was built to protect residents from Omani-Arab domination.
  • An Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist Fazul Abdullah Mohamed who was wanted for his part in the 1998 bombings hid here in the early 2000s. He married a local girl and passed himself off as a preacher. He founded a football team and named it Kabul.
  •  A local Siyu girl called Mwamake was recently identified by Chinese researchers as a descendant of a sailor in Admiral Zheng He’s fleet which is said to have sunk off Siyu in the 15th century. China took her to China to study medicine and paraded her as living proof of its former naval prowess.
  • Siyu remains a major tourist attraction on the Kenyan coast