The town of Malindi is as ancient as the sun, or at least close. Once known as Melinde (Latin for ‘sweet’), it lies on the Kenyan coast of the Indian Ocean, about 120 KM northeast of Mombasa.
The town abounds with spectacular tourist attractions, making it a popular holiday destination. It is exceptionally popular among Italian tourists. It is in Malindi, to the south, where you will find the ruins of Gede (also known as Gedi) and the famous Watamu and Malindi Marine National Parks.
To the north is the mouth of Sabaki River, the second largest river in Kenya after River Tana. In this coastal town, you will also find limitless examples of classical Swahili architecture dating hundreds of years back. But one rare gem is found here that very few know of and it is the Broglio Space Centre used by the Italians as a launchpad for rockets.
Malindi has traditionally been a port city for foreign powers since the 14th century. In 1414, the fleet of the Chinese explorer Zheng visited the port town only rivalled then by Mombasa. It is said that the ruler of Malindi sent a personal envoy with a giraffe as a present to China on that fleet.
In 1498, the famous Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama met Malindi authorities to sign a trade agreement and hire a guide for his voyage to India. The evidence he left behind is a coral pillar that stands to this day. A year after Vasco da Gama came to Malindi, the Portuguese established a trading post that served as a resting stop on the way to and from India.
But today in Langobaya, one of the eight locations in Malindi, a different, less glamorous and sad story of starving residents is told. They camp along Tsavo road, near Sala Gate begging for money from the hundreds of tourists who use the road daily to tour Tsavo National Park.
As Kenya continues to suffer from the pangs of one of the worst droughts to hit East Africa in 60 years, residents of Langobaya are taking advantage of the tourist peak season to survive. This is their temporary solution to their hunger problem as they continue to wait in high anticipation for relief food from the Kenyans for Kenya programme.