Author: Yellow Duckie
Out of so many ancient town I have visited, I have to admit there is absolutely nothing like Lamu. The reason why I choose to visit Lamu is to experience the ultimate coastal life of kenya and I was not quite prepared to what I was about to experience...a couple of days living in a live museum.

The beauty of the ancient town of Lamu can be seen right for the shore of Manda Island (where the air strip is). With just less than 10 mins boat ride from Manda Island, it will take you to the busy port of Lamu. The moment we step foot onto the Lamu Port, i felt as though time has been reversed and the re-enactment of the coastal arabic town comes to life. The bustling port were filled with loads of people offering their dhows to take you on a safari ride or across to the islands nearby.
You will soon find yourself walking amongst the donkeys along the shoreline of the island and the hustle bustle of the busy port is overwhelming. Threading on the dusty lane filled with "traps"(donkey dung), we were really hoping hard that the nicest building we saw from the sea would be the hotel which we are going to lay our heads on...thank God it was.
Here in Lamu, the Swahili architecture, design and style is manifested all over the town. It is indeed a feast to the eyes , especially a virgin eye towards the swahili culture. The wooden doors of Lamu are heavily crafted with flora design and sometimes even with verses from the Quran.
One of the interesting fact I've learnt of the swahili design is the hole in the wall. In a swahili house, in the room behind, there is usually a wall with holes (resembles little gate) where the lady of the house will keep their Chinaware in each of the hole. It is said that this is to protect the house from the evil spirits. If ever any of the chinaware is broken, it is said that the evil spirit has been sucked in and leave the house free from it.
Just like back in those days, the core source of economy of this town is wood carving, fishing and of course, now, tourism. The architecture and interior of the buildings are so well preserved that it literally makes no difference between what is within the museum and what's out there. I wonder why we even bother paying 500 KSH to visit the museum.

Wood Carving
I read an article about having some of these "ruins" being purchased by foreigner where they refurbished it to a beautiful vacation home. They battled between the issue of selling their ancestral property to a foreigner and keeping it. The earlier has proven to provide the owner the capital for a sustainable income when they invest it in something else.
In the midst of this ancient town, somehow there are one or two hang out place which you are comfortable with and I must admit that it shelters you from the reality behind the walls of the courtyard. For us it was our hotel, The Lamu House ( and the Whispers Cafe. The reality was too harsh to be digested.
Lamu House
Poor sanitation is of a major concern here in Lamu. In the midst of the refurbished buildings, stood building where time has eaten away it's youth and resembles a war-torn country. As we venture further into the town, truth revealed itself. The house's condition of the villagers simply cannot hide their state of poverty.

Many has come to Lamu and stayed at Shela beach where it is a beach seekers paradise.However, due to the poor sanitation in Lamu, I can't help be to be disgusted and would rather die than dipping myself in the water. Shela is within walking distance to Lamu (about 40 mins). My advise for those who seeks a tranquil beach vacation, stay at Shela and make a day trip to Lamu.
As much as I have loved this place in the beginning when I first arrived, I have find that the harsh reality of life here is simply appalling.
"Watoto wangu wawili kutwa wagombana bali usiku hulala salama salimini - Mlango" ( My two children quarrel all day but sleep peacefully together at night - the two halves of a door) Swahili Proverbs
This entry was posted on 23:44 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.