Gede – blue monkeys come skittering up the road, greedy for their next meal. Don’t feed the monkeys it says, but no-one talks a bit of notice, least of all the local guide telling the story of the forgotton city. One monkey, aptly named Saddam, eagerly stuffs his face with bananas, his cheeks bulging as he stores food for later, a bully-boy chasing off other rivals.
Hidden in the Arabuko Sokoke forest, close to the Indian Ocean lie the ruins of an abandoned Swahili city, close to the modern-day village of Gede. Its origins are a puzzle with no written record in any local language; nor did the Portuguese who came ashore in nearby Malindi report its existence. Yet here lie the remains of a palace, mosques, pillar tombs and houses, all dating back to at least the 14th century.
It’s as though nothing has changed, walls crumble and fall but a strange atmosphere remains, peaceful yet expectant, more stories waiting to be uncovered. Evidence of the trading routes between this Swahili part of the East African coast and the rest of the world abounds, from Chinese porcelain to Murano beads found on site. Only a fraction of what is believed to exist has been uncovered and excavated. The rest remains underground, reclaimed by the forest which hid it so well from invaders for centuries.