Lamu Kenya, an old historic stone town.


Lamu Kenya

Lamu Kenya, an old historic town and the largest stone town in East Africa was founded in the 14thcentury and played a huge role in the trade between Arabia and Eastern Africa for centuries. Situated at the heart of the Indian Ocean, off the Kenyan coast and north of Mombasa, the island is home to the Swahili. The name originates from the Arabic word Sawahil, meaning "coastal dwellers".


Lamu Island was one of the ports used in the slave trade, in fact the earliest seaport of call in East Africa resulting to creation of the array of cultures presently.

Combine the Omani, Yemen, Indian, Portuguese, Victorian and our very own East African culture and you no doubt appreciate the uniqueness of the setting!.

The trade paved way for the formation of the Kiswahili language, a blend of many tongues and one of the most widespread Bantu languages in the region.

The greatest contributors of the language are said to have been, indisputably, the Arab and Persian cultures.

The islandís aura is certainly captivating; the fascinating buildings, its massive carved doors, numerous mosques, the narrow streets and no cars offer quite a charming experience as you walk amid the town. Women stroll in buibuis and in colourful kangas -a word of wisdom inscribed on each - whereas the men dress in the kanzu and kikoi. Guests are requested to respect these customs and so one seen in the streets clad in a bathing suit would be considered offensive.


Lamuís architectural structure is divided into two, one section of the island consisting of large houses built in coral stone and mangrove timber, the other made up of mud bricks, and makuti houses.

Most of these buildings were erected in the 18th century. The most outstanding are the traditional Swahili courtyard houses also built of coral stone. The National Museums of Kenya owns such one save for the beautifully adorned interior done with rich skillfully carved plaster.

Lamu Kenya is known to the scholars and researchers to be an educational centre for the Swahili language and Islamic religion on account of their heritage. Habib Swaleh, a Sharif and descendant of prophet Mohamed (P.B.A.H) arrived on the Island in the late 19th century and established the Riyadha mosque, a centre for Islamic studies in East Africa. To this day, the Maulidi festival which he introduced as celebration of the Prophetís birth is held annually during the last week of the month of His birth.

Access to Lamu is strictly by air and entry into the city is via ferry boat. Inside the city exploration is by foot, bicycle, or the townís fondness; the donkey. Automobiles are not allowed into the town for where is the passage anyhow! An outing in the city takes you to the Fort, home to a cultural and community centre, marine and natural history exhibits, a public library, conservation studios, a museum shop and a restaurant and cafť that specializes in Swahili cuisine.

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