The Submerged Ancient City of Kisimani Mafia
The Mafia Archipelago (its name is said to come from the Arabic word morfiyeh, which means "archipelago") consists of several islands and atolls, the largest of which is Mafia Island itself. Mafia Island is a nearly undiscovered alternative to Zanzibar, with similar picture-perfect beaches and diverse marine life, but without the crowds of tourists. Its history can be traced back to the 8th century, when boats would stop to refuel and repair along the lucrative coastal trade route. This legacy is evident in the crumbling ruins of a former town called Kua, which include a mosque and unexcavated Chinese and Persian pottery. South of the island is the submerged town of Kisimani Mafia, which was destroyed and submerged by an 1872 cyclone and has yet to be fully excavated. A protected marine preserve encompasses the islands and reefs, making this region is a diver’s paradise. Mafia Island Lodge offers makuti (similar to thatch-roofed) rooms with sea views, plus fishing, biking, walking, diving, and snorkeling, as well as historical and cultural tours.
By Kerry John-Davis, AFAR Contributor
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