Mbaraki Pillar, standing 50 FT just to the west of the Likoni Ferry roundabout, continues to be a source of deep controversy among historians and archaeologists as to its purpose. Local folklore tells of an ancient Arab spirit with powerful magical healing abilities which resides within its walls.
There are those who believe this 300-year-old pillar may have been the tomb of an important person.
James Kirkman, the first curator of Fort Jesus, strongly believed it may have been the tomb of a Sheikh of the Changamwe people who lived in Mbaraki. Yet no single burial chamber was ever found inside Mbaraki Pillar.
Being hollow in construction, unlike other pillar tombs found on the Swahili coast, it is highly unlikely the pillar could have been used as a place of burial.
There have been suggestions it may have served as some kind of landmark or a lighthouse but this also is inconclusive. To add to the archaeological controversy is the fantastical ghostly tale of an Arab spirit that lives here.
Women in their droves come to perform fertility rituals at the base of the pillar in the hope of bearing children. The sick are also known to leave an assortment of offerings at its base in the hope they will get cured.
Today, Mbaraki Pillar is gazetted as a national monument and therefore an important structure in Mombasa. Hopefully, now, more effort will be invested in documenting its history as well as working towards its preservation.
This pillar of many mysteries is the second oldest monument after Fort Jesus. At least most agree on this. Remarkably, its coral stone structure has maintained its original form 3 centuries later, only leaning slightly at an angle, almost like the leaning tower of Pizza in Italy.
About 5 M from the pillar a small 600-year-old mosque sits. They say it dates back to between 1400 and 1450 AD. The mosque fell to complete ruin by 1550 AD before they rebuilt it in 1988. It has a large prayer room, 2 anterooms and stone-built cisterns for storing water on its north-eastern and south-western corners.
Despite its almost pristine state and so much intrigue surrounding it, Mbaraki Pillar remains little known. Perhaps the supposed haunting keeps the site from most tour packages to the Kenya Coast.
Why not pay Mbaraki Pillar a visit if you are around Likoni and see if you will experience the haunting they speak of? Come on now!