Lamu Island and town

People and canons in Lamu
Old canons from the colonial era can still be seen in Lamu town

Lamu town is one of the original Swahili settlements along the East African coast and it is one of Kenyas oldest living towns. During centuries, Lamu was controlled by the Portuguese but in 1652, Lamu was assisted by Oman in lifting Portuguese control and Lamu’s years as an Omani protectorate mark the town’s golden age.

During this period, Lamu became a center of poetry, politics, arts and crafts as well as the trade. Due to the abolition of the slave trade was abolished and the construction of the Uganda Railroad in 1901 (which started from the competing port of Mombassa) Lamu’s economy was significantly hampered but in recent years tourism has gradually refuelled the economy.

Lamu town was built long before the automobile was invented and a unique attraction in Lamu is the absense of cars. Actually the streets are so narrow that only people and donkeys can pass and the only car on the island is owned by the District Commisioner. Being a relatively small island, access to the sea is easy almost anywhere and obviously boats are widely used for transportation of almost anything coming to the island, for fishing and for leasure.

A feeling of the past

One of the main reasons some people love Lamu like nowhere else in the world, is the relaxed atmosphere combined with a sprawling swahili culture, the medieval streets of Lamu town and its beautiful architecture as well as the wonderful beaches surrounding the island – Shela beach probably being the most visited. Lamu is part of the Lamu archipelago consisting of several smaller islands such as Manda Island, Paté Island, Kiwayu Island and a lot of islets within the Kiunga Marine National Park – a great place to snorkle and dive with the chance to encounter the rare manatee, tortoises and hundreds of species of tropical fish. Nowhere in lamu will you be far from the soothing waves of the Indian Ocean.

White house in Lamu island in Kenya
Old colonial style villa with an ocean view under a huge acacia tree