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The Kongo Mosque

When visiting the Kongo Mosque, which is situated in the northern part of Diani, next to the Mwachema River mouth, you will walk upon a mosaic of extraordinary baobab

trees, all various sizes and many of which are hundreds of years old, if only they could speak to tell us of what they have seen over their many years. On closer inspection, like war scars, many display carvings of old lovers and names long gone, the carvings more likely lasting longer than their creator. As you walk further into the mish mash of baobabs, with cars parked just as randomly as the trees they park between, you will come across a building, likely as old but most likely older than its leafy (or leafless depending on when you visit) neighbours, this is the Kongo Mosque which overlooks the Indian Ocean.

The Kongo Mosque, believed to be the oldest one in East Africa, is still used by Muslims to this day. What can be gathered by historical accounts, is that the Mosque is thought to have been built by Arab merchants to use for prayers on their regular visits to the coast for trade. it is believed that the Mosque was originally built with coral stones between the 13th and 14th century.

The Mosque was formally known as the Diani Persian Mosque, the name Kongo, which is was later called, is thought to have derived from a name inscribed on one of the grave stones within the Mosques compound. The owner of the grave stone being a gentleman called Swaddiq Kongo, buried centuries before. Swaddiq Kongo is not the only man buried within the compound, several other graves have been identified and it is believed 27 of these burial sites are of the people who originally built the Mosque.

Some sources report the Mosque being built as late as the 16th century, but confusion could be due to the fact that the Mosque was temporally abandoned when the Arabs left the coast.

The Mosque was left alone and nature took over. This would have been at a time when leopards, buffalo and even elephants would frequent the area, before they were scared off by human settlements. The place, a mix of nature, culture and history must have been both tranquil and vibrant. This is also when it is thought that the now huge baobabs would have established themselves, further hiding the Mosque from the outer world.

Left to nature and with few people knowing of its existence, a native Muslim scholar, Sheikh Mwenye Kombo, allegedly had a dream instructing him to walk the South Coast to find the Mosque. After several days of searching he found the Mosque, at the time, it was home to a colony of bats amongst other wildlife. Kombo, along with a few other men rehabilitated the Mosque and upon its reopening, named it the Kongo Mosque.

Amongst the mysteries this place holds, there is another, an even more intriguing one. This being a large round stone, found in the ocean, only accessible at low tide. It is believed this round stone is sacred, used for religious rituals, with folklore saying that the stone once revolved in the ocean but suddenly stopped one day. The reasons for why it stopped seems to be unknown or at least not well documented. It is not certain whether this sacred round stone is linked to the Mosque but its proximity so close to the building would suggest there is a connection.

We move to the present, the Mosque, has had some renovations, to keep it functioning but it also has been expanded, with an Eastern wing added to accommodate the numerous of worshippers that use the Mosque. On Friday's and on Muslim celebrations, the Mosque can receive up to 300 worshippers.

The Kongo Mosque, can only be enjoyed from the outside by most, as with all active Mosques worldwide, they cannot be entered by anyone other than a Muslim. However, the Mosque opens its carpark, for a small charge, for guests to park and enjoy the beauty of the location, the river mouth itself is a perfect place to enjoy the tranquility of the ocean and watch the sunset over the breathtaking baobab silhouettes, a perfect photo opportunity or simply a place to immerse yourself into the locations nature and peacefulness. The Mosque in 1983 was listed as one of the sites and monuments of historical value by the National Museums of Kenya. Therefore, we can all rest assured that this sacred place will remain largely untouched by the rest of Diani's vastly developing coast, protected by its sacred and historical past.

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