The sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List on 8 July 2008. The Mijikenda Kaya Forests consist of 11 separate forest sites spread over some 200 km along the Kenyan coast containing the remains of numerous fortified villages, known as kayas, of the Mijikenda people. The kayas, created as of the 16th century but abandoned by the 1940s, are now regarded as the abodes of ancestors and are revered as sacred sites and, as such, are maintained as by councils of elders. The site is inscribed as bearing unique testimony to a cultural tradition and for its direct link to a living tradition.
Visitors are not allowed into most of the Mijikenda Kaya Forests, but the Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project allows it through a guided walk into the forest during which the community shares information on the Kaya and other aspects of the local culture. The community uses a set of rules both to safeguard the Kaya’s sanctity and to protect their culture. For instance, entry into the Kaya is allowed only on certain days, according to a traditional calendar. More information about this interesting project and contact details can be found here.
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