Malindi Museum “House of Columns”

Malindi Museum “House of Columns” : Malindi Museum is one of the beautiful museums in Kenya found along the Kenya coast and a perfect spot to if you intend to learn more about the history and cultures of Kenyan Coast and its people. Malindi Museum is dedicated to the history of the ethnic groups of the Kenyan coast, its people and the marine animals inhabiting in this region.

Malindi Museum also known as House of Columns is located in the town of Malindi Town, Malindi Town is a town on the Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River. The town lies on the Indian Ocean about 120 kilometers north – east of Mombasa.

Historical Background

The building of Malindi Museum was initially owned by the Bohra community and it was occupied by the Medical Department who operated the Malindi Native Civil Hospital for a good years, this building was later bought from the Bohra community by Thomas Alfree at a fee of 2,000 English Pounds.

Malindi Museum “House of Columns”
Malindi Museum

The exact date for the construction of this building is not known and as discussed by Thomas Alfree in his undated autobiography, even the oldest Bohra who was more than 90 years by the time it was purchased could not remember when it was built. However the date for the construction of the building is suggested to be the last quarter of the 19th century, in this period of time many building of this type of style was common around the cost most especially in the old towns of Lamu and Mombasa.

Thomas Alfree bought the house from a grant to the Marine Division of the Fisheries Department for purposes of establishing a Kenya Marine Fisheries Station in Malindi. Unfortunately, Alfree is silent on the date when he signed the lease agreement of 99 years in his biography but it is said to must have been during the first half of the British Colonial period in Kenya.

After occupation by the Fisheries department, the building became offices for Kenya Wildlife Services before it was handed over to the National Museums of Kenya in 1999. The building was opened to the public as the Malindi Museum on 10th May 2004.

Description of the Building
The building hosting the Malindi Museum is a charming old double – storey structure with a roof terrace covered with roof tiles, this beautiful building is situated along the sea front a few meters from Malindi jetty and Fish Market. The building is a 19th century type of building identical to the Malindi District Commissioner’s building, it is rectangular in size (Ca. 12.9 x 18.7 metres and 12 meters to the highest point of the roof). It also has a veranda and thick perimeter walls of ca.65 cm made of plaster over lumps of coral set in lime mortar.

 The building has 4 entrances, two of these are on the east façade and reached through a colonnade of 5 rounded pillars on square pedestal, one entrance is fitted with a Gujerati and the other is fitted with a Swahili carved door, Malindi Museum “House of Columns”.

The 3rd entrance is on the northern façade at the North West quadrant reached through a flight of a masonry stairway, this entrance has a small trap door of the Indian type which is serving both the ground and the first floor of the building.

The fourth entrance is exclusively for the first floor and is one the southern façade and is reached through an exterior wooden staircase which is a secondary addition to the building.  The door to this entrance is simple and opens onto a balcony supported by the rounded columns covered with a roof resting on dressed wooden supports, from the balcony, a door leads into the first floor until through a corridor with 2 rooms on the both side. The rooms are organized in such a way that they are directly opposite one another with beautifully curved Bajuni doors.

Malindi Museum “House of Columns”
Malindi Museum

 At the back of the corridor of this building, there is another door opening onto the back of the first floor level where a landing to the terrace, circulation space and toilet facilities are organized. From the landing there are two staircases, one leading up to the original terrace which is now a library, the second staircase leads down to the group floor or out of the building through a side entrance organized at the North West quadrant of the north façade disguised as the 3rd entrance above.

 The original plan of this building might have divided the building into 2 separate units all entered through the front façade, the ground floor unit was exclusively through the Indian door which opened onto 3 parallel along rooms behind the others (which is used as a shop and store). If this was the case, then the idea that the exterior wooden staircase and the 2 doors along the south façade being secondary addition to the building is valid.

The building (Malindi Museum) currently houses temporary exhibitions, it also doubles as an information center where visitors are able to find more information on attractions and what happens in Malindi in one place.

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