– Lamu – A Town of History –
The celebrations are in its climax, the young and the old alike cheering and shouting their hearts out as the donkey’s race towards the finish line. A lot of prizes are in store for both the winning beast of burden and the owner. The narrow, beautiful, ancient streets are packed with tourists and locals to witness and take part in the annual cultural event. The seven-day event that takes place on Lamu Island brings people from all walks of life to showcase what it has as it celebrates its cultural and traditional heritage.
Apart from the Swahili people traditions, the Old Town, the beaches, the Lamu Fort, and the Swahili architectures in different parts of the Island, there are number hundreds of tourist attractions on the Island. Riding on a donkey, (the main means of transport in the place), is an experience that is unforgettable.
Despite the fact that it is the smaller of the two most famous towns in the Lamu Archipelago (Pate and Lamu), Lamu remains one of the most important settlements of the Swahili people of the Kenyan coast. The archipelago lie 2 degrees south of the Equator along the Kenya’s coast. The Islands are separated from the mainland by a narrow channel surrounded with thick mangrove forest and protected from the Indian Ocean by coral reefs and large sand dunes.
The UNESCO World Heritage site is believed to date back in the 1300s but the earliest records are of the Portuguese who occupied the place around the year, 1506 followed by the Omanis in the 1800s, before it was invaded by the Britain.
It was first established as a trading outpost because of its proximity to the deep and calm waters, not forgetting the long accessible shore line. This made it an ideal hub of the East African stopover for the Northern Sea trade route.
Even though today the Sheilla Beach (the oldest beach), is littered with the modern day luxurious houses, villas, and most of the best hotels, the town has always kept its conservation plan. This has made it to remain the most attractive and famous Swahili heritage site on the East African coast line.
Centuries after the Swahili first ancestors settled on the Island, the town authenticity is still strong to date. The cultural heritage, the narrow, cool and quiet streets have an amazingly intimate spaces enclosed by massive stone buildings with thick coral rag walls give the town its distinctive texture and colour.
Lamu Island which was a onetime port to call for has many historical sites a proof that the area is rich with history. Combined with all the natural attraction of its tropical setting, traditional heritage, and hospital people, it remains a wonderful place to visit.