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Posted By Humphrey Bwayo Posted On

Malindi’s Hell’s Kitchen, Marafa: The Enigmatic Legend of a Wealthy Family Swallowed up by the Ground

I was fortunate to experience the beauty of Malindi a couple of weeks ago, and perhaps the most captivating experience was at Hell’s Kitchen. Sorry for my ignorance, but the first time I heard about the magnificence and mystery of Hell’s Kitchen, Marafa was the first day I visited.

Marafa, popularly known as Hell’s Kitchen, is a magnificent sandstone canyon in Malindi. Hell’s Kitchen, Marafa, is approximately 37 km from Malindi town and a 40-minute drive via B8 road.

Marafa’s Hell’s Kitchen is an odd-looking sandstone canyon with sundae-like layering with pinks, reds, whites, oranges, browns, and deep crimsons that are dreamy, especially at sundown.  It’s quite a spectacle that couldn’t be described better by a blog or YouTube video. I’d recommend taking some time off to visit this iconic Canyon anytime you are close to Malindi.

Hell’s Kitchen, a Canyon centered in a small location in Marafa, in my opinion, is slowly expanding. The edges seem to be eroding with every wind, rain, flooding, and human activity. The Canyon is gradually eating up its tall walls, reducing the surrounding real estate inch by inch.

Malindi Hell’s Kitchen Marafa is a Community-Run Initiative

Thanks to my good friends Chris, Allan, Shiela, and Sarah, we arrived at Marafa at 2 pm on a Sunday. We’d woken up at 5 am to catch the sunrise at the Pier in Malindi (an incredibly magical moment), with short stops after at Vasco Da Gama Monument, Falcon Sanctuary, and brunch at an authentic Swahili restaurant. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come by these local restaurants on the coast anymore, and in my experience, they are a slowly dying business.

For Ksh. 150 ($1.5) each, we had access into the Canyon, which also included guide fees. Hell’s Kitchen is a government-sponsored, community-run initiative set up to help give back to the community and also preserve natural phenomena. I won’t go into details about the Canyon. Instead, in this post, I want to share the Legend of Hell’s Kitchen.

After we paid entry fees into the Canyon, we were assigned a guide, a tall, stocky guy with massive dreadlocks. I must admit, he’s the most patient person I have met in a while (people from the coast are generally kind and patient), and he didn’t mind our fascination with everything or the amount of time we took taking pictures at every corner.

Juma, the guide, is a true Marafa local, he’s born and bred, in the Hell’s Kitchen area. As we hiked down the Canyon, he shared some of his childhood memories about the place. As a kid, Juma would herd his family animals around the Canyon, but never alone. It was believed that the place was haunted, and from time to time, locals trekking through the Canyons told stories of strange noises from spirits that roamed the site.

The Legend of Hell’s Kitchen, Marafa in Malindi

I had chills walking down the Canyon hearing these stories. However, at the back of my mind, I also figured the mystery behind the Canyon was perhaps the only reason I was able to enjoy its magnificence decades later- the site remains untouched due to the mysterious stories surrounding it.

However, one story captured my attention. It is folklore and something of a legend surrounding the Hell’s Kitchen, Marafa sandstone Canyon.

According to Juma, it is believed that this tiny Canyon, deep in Marafa, was once a homestead to a wealthy family in that community. The mystery behind the Canyon is surrounded by a series of events that led to the fate of a family that lived on the site.

Hundreds of years ago, a wealthy family lived in this location, among the Giriama community. A famine that lasted for years hit the area and locals had to walk for days to get water for their animals or food to eat. Yet, while everyone else was suffering, one family was thriving—The wealthy family.

The family that lived at Hell’s Kitchen had a lot of cattle and all the food they needed and even more. However, they did not share it with the community. They were so mean they bathed and washed their things in milk while their neighbors died of hunger.

Unfortunate Turn of Event’s

God wasn’t happy with this family. And one night, when everyone was asleep, the community heard a loud bang coming from the family’s homestead. Since they rarely talked with the community or invited anyone over, no one got out of their house to see what was happening.

When the villagers woke up in the morning, they found the entire homestead, including the occupants and their cattle, swallowed by the ground. What has left behind was the deep Canyon, with cake-layered colors.

According to Juma, the white layers in the Canyons represent milk, the red represents blood the family shed, and brown, the color of their cattle.

The site has ever since been deserted. However, villagers believe that in the evening or very early in the morning, you can still hear the voices of the family crying and begging for help deep in the Canyon.

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