Kenya: Restoring the Rebmann missionary house in Rabai

14.05.2021 - Article

Since March 2017, the Federal Foreign Office has contributed funds from its Cultural Preservation Programme to support the restoration and expansion of the Rabai cultural centre near Mombasa on the Kenyan coast.

The Rabai Church is considered to be the origin of Christianity and modern learning in East and Central Africa.

Former missionary house
Former missionary house© Uwe Koppel

It was here that the German missionary Ludwig Krapf, who travelled to Kenya in 1844, wrote the first dictionary of the Swahili language and translated the Bible into the Kiswahili, Kinyika and Kikamba languages. He also compiled a Nika‑English dictionary. Together with Johannes Rebmann, who was also a missionary and the first European to see Kilimanjaro, he lived on this site and built a church, now a museum. The exhibition “Rabai The Cradle of Christianity” designed by the National Museums of Kenya is about the history of Christianity and Western education, commerce and the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in Kenya and East Africa, as well as the Rabai culture. Rebmann’s house has been restored and developed into a reference and meeting centre for the local population and the church community.

The German Embassy in Nairobi already supported the establishment of a small museum on the premises of the former church in 1986 and 1987, and now the church and residential buildings have been restored in two phases with help from the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Fund and made accessible to a wide public in keeping with their cultural, historical and religious significance. As a national meeting centre, cultural site and memorial, it now offers neighbouring communities the opportunity to become involved and opens up scope for cooperation with universities.

Former missionary house in Rabai
Former missionary house in Rabai© Uwe Koppel

The resulting opportunities for tourists and school classes to visit the museum will help to improve their cultural and historical understanding.

The construction of the memorial with a religious and cultural background on the Rabai site is taking place within the context of efforts to come to terms with recent Kenyan history, strengthening national identity and promoting cultural dialogue based on partnership.
The project is being implemented in cooperation with the National Museums of Kenya, the Anglican Church of Kenya in Rabai and the local Government.
Further information can be found here on the website of the National Museums of Kenya.


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