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  • Writer's pictureKola Beach

Vasco da Gama Pillar

​Built in 1498 amid Muslim resistance, Vasco da Gama pillar is one of the oldest European installations in Africa

Designed using ancient Portuguese architecture, the Vasco da Gama Pillar along the Kenyan coast in Malindi has stood the test of time and is one of the oldest tributes to history.

Did you know that the Vasco da Gama pillar, which stands majestically on a cliff, is the second one built by the seafarer — Vasco da Gama — in the same town? The first pillar was erected near the Sultan’s palace.

Malindi, just like Mombasa and Lamu, is among the oldest towns in Kenya. It was strategically placed as a sea route to traders to and from the East Coast of Africa.

vasco da gama route

Vasco da Gama arrived in Kenya in his endeavour to find a sea route to India.

He was welcomed cordially by the Sultan of Malindi who was then not on talking terms with the Sultan of Mombasa.

Tour guide Josephine Kinyamasyo says because Malindi was Muslim dominated, the Muslim and Christian animosity that reigned could not allow the pillar to stand.

Muslims demolished it because it had a cross, which was seen as encouraging Christianity.

Kinyamasyo says after the demolition of the initial pillar, Vasco da Gama explained to the sultan why the pillar was important and it was then that he was allowed to build the present one on the cliff where it stands.

Today, many visitors to the Coast just see it as a monument, but in real sense it was a landmark that could be seen from far off — more like a lighthouse with no lights at night."


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