Sunday, 24 March 2013


Sheikh. Salim Ramadthan in Malindi Sec School Library
Mambrui is an old Swahili town/village located on the shores of the Indian Ocean, approximately 12 km North of Malindi town. It is on the north of Sabaki River Estuary. Before the recent changes in administration boundary structure, Mambrui was in Malindi district’s Magarini Division. Right now, it is in Kilifi County, Magarini District.

In Magarini Division, high human settlements are found in the foot plateau and the coastal range areas of Gongoni, Mambrui, Marereni & Magarini villages/ trading centers. The areas have fairly good soils and high rainfall for agriculture, good road network, (Malindi -Garsen) highway and employment opportunities in the salt works. (Source: Malindi District development plan 2002-2008).

Prof. Said, Sheikh Salim &Madam Halima Ali
According to the Kenya population and household census report Vol. 1A, 2009 Mambrui area is 54.4 sq Km, with a population of 16,752 people in 2,646 households. The population density is 308. (This statistics include the old village and its surrounding areas).

Mambrui as a tourist resort is a host of many bungalows & hotels at Karibuni and Angels Bay Development Projects, most of which are foreign owned. Some with semi- permanent residents and others in seasonal occupation

The memories recorded in this story are specifically about old Mambrui village/ trading centre (which in the past was mainly the village by the shore). 

Prof Said thanked Sheikh Salim Ramadhan for finding time to talk to us about himself and his memories of Mambrui. He explained the changing roles of libraries from preservation of printed literature to collection and dissemination of information through multimedia such as pictures, voice recordings and currently the internet. This explanation was necessary because we needed   permission from sheikh Salim to record his voice, to be used together with this write up on the Elimu Asilia blog, to disseminate the unwritten living memories of Mambrui Community.

Prof. Abdullah Naji  Said
Was born and brought up in Mambrui, went to Mambrui Primary School, Mombasa (Arab Secondary school now known as Khamis Secondary School). Studied at, Egerton Agricultural College and taught at the then Royal Technical College (now University of Nairobi). He is the current chairman of Malindi Museum Society

Sheikh Salim Ramadhan
Sheikh Salim links his age to the first event of Maulid festivals in Mambrui Village approximately 104 years. His parents were Mama Swabrina and father Bw. Ramadhan. Salim’s first name was Riadha, but some people called him Juma (both are associative names to the Maulid events at Riadha and to Friday, likely the day he was born). Later,he was given the name Salim.

In the past, Mambrui and Malindi were regarded as one place despite lack of a truck road connection between the two places. People from Mambrui came to Malindi along the beach. There was boat transport (majahazi) at the Mouth of Sabaki River (the point where the river estuary joins the Indian Ocean) (kivukoni) used to carry people from either sides of the Estuary. They would walk the rest of the distance to either Malindi or Mambrui. Salim said that at that time, there was a lot of water flowing into the Indian Ocean at the Estuary; unlike now.

There was only one long vehicle in Malindi, as public transport means from Malindi to Mombasa through Takaungu bridge, which is no longer there; a journey that took long hours, from 3.00 am to 5.00 pm. As a child, Salim often travelled to Mombasa to visit his maternal grandparents. They would leave Mambrui  in the evening walking to Malindi, spend a night in Malindi at his uncles house (Sheikh Alhamoodi) and leave early the following morning for Mombasa by the only available vehicle. Leaving Malindi at 3.00 am in the morning, they would be at Takaungu by 12.00 noon and in Mombasa by 9.00 pm.

On many occasions, Salim walked from Mambrui to Malindi to buy provisions from Ba Athman’s shop (an old provisions and merchandise shop that still exists today doing the same business).

Education in Mambrui
As a predominantly Muslim settlement, Islamic education (Madrassa) existed in Mambrui from early times – this provides religious teachings and guidance). Elementary education was introduced when the first school in Mambrui – Mambrui Primary School, then known as Arab School was established in 1910. The Mambrui primary school was founded by Sir Ali Bin Salim, who after being taken overseas by British Administration to acquire the English system of education, came back to establish schools along the Coast of  Kenya. Some of the schools are:-
·         Arab School in Mombasa
·         Arab School in Takaungu
·         Arab School in Malindi
·         Arab School in Lamu
·         Arab School in Mambrui/ Mambrui Primary School

The first teachers in the schools were Europeans, mainly teaching elementatry syllabus (a, b. c, d etc.) Mr. Wick Boen and Mr. Babel Owen. Later on, local teachers took up teaching the syllabus. Sir Ali chose his playmates and friends experienced in teaching through Madrassa schools to teach Koran in   school as well as learn to teach the elementary syllabus.

Aerial view. Mambrui village in 1972. Courtesy Prof. Said.
Salim’s enrollement to Mambrui School happened as a mix of accident and sheer good luck. As a child, his parents had a farm on the outskirts of Mambrui village. He would be left at home while they went to work on the farm all day. Salim, together with his playmates enjoyed swimming at the Mambrui beach. However, one day, he almost drowned in the turbulent ocean waves. His playmates sought the help of grownups to rescue him. That day marked the turn of events in his life. On that very day, Mama Swabrina after her busy day at the farm heard about the horrendous event. She did what she could do best to protect her young son’s life. She gave him away to Sheikh Abdullah Nassor and in her words said “ twakupa mtoto huyu, utupe siku ya kiama” meaning “ we give you this boy, give him back to us on the resurrection day ”. Having entrusted the responsibility of her son to Sheikh Nassor, at the age of 11 years Salim became Sheikh Nassor’s house assisatant/servant boy. Sheikh Nassor happened to be one of Sir Ali’s friends appointed to teach Qura’n and elementatry syllabus at the Mambrui School. He would go with him to school and at the same time run errands for him like distributing dates (tende) in his houses. The Sheihk’s neighbours like Sharrif Alwy (a medicine man) and Bi. Khadija Kiberiti often requested for Salims help in their errands. He remembers often helping Sharrif Alwy mix traditional herbal medicine. Salim would help pound it in a mortar and pestle (kinu na mti). During his many visits to school with Sheikh Nassor and being an obedient hard working boy, he was enrolled for elementary classes, but, he continued staying with Sheikh Nassor and ran errand for him between classes. The other friend and playmate appointed by Sir ali to teach at Mambrui school was Abdi Salaam.

Aerial view. Mambrui village, 2013. Photo courtesy of Jamal Hashim.
After completing his studies at elementary school, Salim was sent to Kilifi to acquire health/medical training by the British Colonial Officers in Malindi. For a period of two years between 1955 and 1957, he went through apprenticeship training, staying in class for half day and attending to patients in wards for the rest of the day at Kilifi, todays General Hospital. There were 2 huge halls used as training facilities, and wards, where patients were admitted for observation and treatment. He worked in all the wards (children ward, men ward, women ward, special TB (Tuberculosis) ward and even in the mortuary). By that time, the Colonial Government was also building health facilities in several parts of the Coast. Salim therefore worked in the following facilities at the Coast.
·         Mwanzani Dispensary – on the border of Chonyi and Jibana
·         Ganze – with Dr. Henry Kitunga
·         Mariakani- “Guruguru with Ali Sudan, where as a trader had a small ranch.
·         Kwale
·         Marikebuni, near Mambrui
As an accomplished Health Officer, he established good reputation. The Colonial Officers occasionally appraised their members of staff and Salim was rated highly as a good Health Officer by patients in all hospitals where he worked.

Salim’s aspiration was to become a District Health Officer, as he got a letter of reccomendation from his trainers for that position. However, elders in Mambrui village requested to have a Dispensary within the village, the nearest was at marikebuni, but even so, it was far and out of reach by most sick people. With a dispensary in Mambrui, his people requested that Salim be brought back to work for them in their dispensary. He chose to work for his people. A farewell party was organized for him in the new financial year to start his work at Mambrui. The Mission Hospital in Marikebuni was taken over by Government after being closed for a long time. Residents protested against the closure, prompting the Colonial Government to take it over. Sheikh Salim worked in Marikebuni to revive the hospital.

Economic Activities in Mambrui
Mtambuu/ Pan leaves tree. Malindi Bus Farm
 Most people in Mambrui owned and worked on farms on the outskirts of Mambrui village, they planted crops for sale and for their own food. Salim’s father owned Tambuu trees (pan leaves trees). It was common practice for adults to leave the village, work most parts of their days on the farm and come back to the village at about 3.00 pm. The main crops were pulses, sorghum, millet, maize, cotton, cassava, cashew nut trees, coconut trees, mangoes, citrus and a variety of other fruit trees. In some swampy land, rice was planted. In the past, land owners had neither title deeds nor boundary marks, they only knew their farms and respected each other’s portions .The Colonial Government decided to help partition the land, through the efforts of Sir Ali and Sheikh Nassur Abuod and  Abdallah Soo and others, land issues were presented to the colonial government. People were given chains to mark perimeters of their land, surveyors then used the chain borders to mark boundaries and allocate portions to individuals.

Mtambuu tree. Usually supporter by trees so as to creep above the ground.

Mambrui being a beach village, fishing was done by local fishermen for their own consumption and for sale to generate a small income or for giving away to charity to those who could not go fishing.

There was a port in Mambrui where people used to take farm produce, especially cotton for sale. Salim remembers Captains (nahodha Mzee Nasibu and Auni) who knew positions of coral rocks at the port so well that he was always recommended to help Europeans sail in and out of the port.
Small scale trade was also popular; women made and sold foodstuffs especially homemade millet bread (mkate wa mofa). There was one shop near Langoni. It was also a common practice for people from Mambrui to walk along the beach to Malindi to buy provisions from Ba Athman’s shop.

Dairy farmers sold milk from Mambrui in Malindi town. Prof said, as a boy helped work on his father’s dairy farm and used a bicycle to ferry milk in cans to sell from house to house and purchase provisions for home use as instructed by his mother.

Leisure activities
Travel to Mombasa.
Salim’s maternal parents stayed in Mombasa in Mkomani area (present Ratna square area). Salim enjoyed visiting his uncles in Mombasa because a lot of fun came with that. They would take him to watch black and white movies at Majestic Cinema (near Mackinnon Market). His uncles, Awadh, Auni and others had boats for making trips to the ocean. In those days, there were few temporary structures (made from cut out gallons/tins) around Mkomani area and Mackinnon market near Majestic Cinema. Mombasa was a small town near the old port (Forodhani). Rick shaw vehicles were used for transporting people within town.

One time sheikh Abdullah Nassor was sick (he had an eye ailment), so Salim took him to Mombasa to Sir Ali for treatment. Sir Ali had a guest house between Mackinnon Market and the present Baroda area, Salim and Sheikh Nassor were welcomed well and given a place to rest. One of Sir Alis workers informed him of their arrival, Sir Ali welcomed them well and arranged for Sheikh Nassor’s eye treatment. At this time, Salim had not completed his medical/ health training Kilifi.

Games for children:
Koko – kokokoma/ Cricket – equivalent to cricket played on flat ground on the beach. Young boys used wooden poles to hit the seed of Mkoma tree.
Taso – this game was played in teams, members divided into two groups and placed a pole at the centre of their playground. One person from each side would touch the pole and run, the opposing team would try to chase and touch the person to acquire a score. Team members would shield this person from being touched. The longer the person stayed without being touched the higher their side of the team scored.
Kibe / hide and seek – this was popular among young girls, sometimes they played as mixed groups with young boys.

Dances for women:
Mwasha – This was a dance performed by women only, they would make two lines facing each other and walking alternating from one side to the other singing, dancing while holding fimbo (sticks).
Goma Kuu/ Msondo – this was a special dance for women and girls of marriageable age, the drums were played by ladies, men were completely forbidden from watching or taking part in this dance. The dancing arena was closed up and well-guarded. The main purpose of this dance was to teach girls how to dance for their husbands after marriage. It was mainly organized by kungwi (well-known experienced women), appointed to each girls about their matrimonial responsibilities to their husbands.
Lelemama – this was a popular dance performed during weddings, women sung and danced while hitting sticks and horns in a rhythm matching drum beats and tunes. Most of the time, the ladies would be dance standing along the trees or from walls of the banda (shade for the Ceremony)

Dances for Men:
·         Kirumbizi
·         Chama
·         Sharha
·         Mwaribe
·         Ndonge
·         Burutangi (kites)
·         Bao Game
·         Dumna

This rich culture has been lost over time; Salim attributes the loss to lack of unity among the people of Mambrui and the influence of the present years entertainment, leisure times and types.

Chama Dance.


Kirumbizi dance during Twalib Omar Ali’s wedding in Mambrui.


Popular foodstuffs in Mambrui were:-
·         Wali wa mahindi – Maize pounded and boiled as rice
·         Mkate wa mofa – home baked millet bread
·         Wali wa mtama -  Millet /sorghumpounded and boiled
·         Samaki – fish
·         Ndizi- bananas, both plantain and ripe bananas)
·         Viazi - potatoes
·         Mhogo – cassava – Cooked in coconut milk or boiled and pounded to be eaten like ugali.
·         Vindoro – sweet potatoes

Most farmers sold cow milk to make money and retained goat milk for family use. Prices of commodities were affordable to both the rich and poor people. For a 10 cent coin, one would buy sugar, tea leaves, bread and a matchbox.
There was a notable variation between evening meal times (dinner) in Malindi and Mambrui.
Dinner in Malindi was served after Isha prayers (from 8.00 pm), while dinner in Mambrui was served earlier after Margharib prayers (6.30pm to 7 .00pm). This was because most people in Mambrui worked on farms all day, had light packed lunched came back to cook just about sunset so had their meals early. Majority of people in Malindi did not work on farms therefore had daytime and evening meals in their homes.

 Government Taxes.
There were two types of taxes
·         Graduated Personalities Tax – (ushuru wa kichwa).
·         African Development Committee Tax - (Kodi ya ADC).
In 1960, there was a drought, farm produce was low, the people of Mambrui requested for tax to be waived because they hardly had enough to sell to pay the taxes. Tax waiver was effected by the colonial government on condition that they would not get medicine from hospital in that year, most civil hospitals experienced shortage of medicine in that particular year.

Nick Names in Mambrui
Omar Jomba -  alikuwa na mikono migumu kama chuma, akimkamata mtu amtie kwapani, mikojo humtoka aliekamatwa.
Ba Sangobabake Omar Sango – alisifika kama mtu mwenye nguvu nyingi sana, mara nyingi watu wakishangaa kama ni binadamu ama ni radi. Wakati mmoja, alialikwa harusini, akalishwa vizuri, ashibe ili aende kupambana na jamaa mmoja (Jumaa, aliyesifika kama mtu mwenye nguvu nyingi pia) katika ngoma ya kucheza na fimbo (ngoma ya kirumbizi). Baada ya asri, kirumbizi kilianza. Ba tsango akaingia, akatamba (akazunguka), yule bwana juma akajaribu kumpiga ba Tsango fimbo, Ba Tsango akamsukumia fimbo kwa nguvu, ikamtoa mkono( shoulder dislocation) kwa zile nguvu nyingi.
Saidi Kishindo- huyu alikuwa mtu mwenye hikma alikuwa na duka, kasha wakulima wakileta mazao ya shambani kuuza mjini, alikuwa hanunui upesi, mara nyingi wakizunguka kote mjini na kurudi kwake na mabaki ya mazao yao. Alizoea kuwaambia wamuuzie bei nafuu, wakisita aliwaeleza kuwa mazao hayo yalikuwa ”mali malande” mali isiyodhaminiwa kwa hivyo walimuuzia bei rahisi badala ya kurudi nayo nyumbani.(Always wanted to have his way in any  argument).
Omar Kishaa/ kichaa – alikuwa mtu mwenye tabia ya kupanda hasira upesi. Kila aliposhindana na mtu yeyote kwa jambo lolote, alikasirika sana akawaa mwenda wazimu.
Omar Mayuto/ar Majuto – alikuwa mtu mwenye tabia ya kujuta kila mara. (He had a habit of regretting).

Popular women in Mambrui, whom Salim Ramadhan remembers.
Sheikh Ali Kassim Bin Omar wife (Bi. Mkubwa). Her husband wanted to marry a second wife in secrecy. Traditionally, men sought their wives permission to marry other wives. Permission would be granted on condition that the man gifts the first wife two khangas (gora mbili ya lesso/ khanga). Sheikh Kassim did not seek Bi Mkubwa’s permission, he went to Malindi, on his way back stopped at his targeted second wives home. He stayed for long hours, so long that when he left to go back to Bi Mkubwa’s house, he forgot his walking stick ( bakora). Word had reached Bi mkubwa that her husband had married a second wife but she never took it seriously till then. So when Sheikh Kassim got back home to Bi Mkubwa, she noticed that he did not have his Bakora. Sheikh Kassim had a pleasant surprise when Bi Mkubwa told him not to worry about his walking stick and that she knew he might have left it at his secret wife’s house and that she was going to get the walking stick for him. Had he not forgotten the walking stick, he would have deceived Bi Mkubwa for long that she was his only wife.
Swaleh Diye
During droughts, Bi Diye Mobilised women to meet at a special place where rain water gallows within the Village (mkondoni). This place was near Mohamed Athman’s house. The women went with coconut cups (zifufu za nazi) filled with spiced porridge (uji wa manjano) to offer special prayers for rain.
Mamake Kadede(Zaituni)
She taught religion and helped women deliver at home (midwife).

Interviewer: Prof. Abdullah N. Said (Chairman Malindi Museum Society, Volunteer in the interview)
Note taking & voice recording: Doris Kamuye (Librarian Webb Memorial library)
Venue: Mambrui Secondary School Library.