DAY 2: LAMU
Full day on Lamu Island. Overnight PEPONI HOTEL.
DAY 3: LAMU-MOMBASA
Boat transfer to Lamu Airstrip for your evening flight back to Nairobi
Far to the north, the small island of Lamu is the living legacy of a centuries-old civilisation. As in Zanzibar the Swahili heritage has survival the passing of time. Lamu is in fact the name of the town, the island and the archipelago, the three forming an inseparable whole.
The capital with its tangle of narrow streets, its mosques and fort exudes an old fashioned, oriental charm. It is accessible only by boat: aircrafts have to land on a neighbouring island. The coral walls of the old town rise at the very edge of the ocean. Behind the arcades and columns of the seafront, a network of tiny squares and winding lanes enmeshes the stone facades of beautiful houses. Finally worked lintels display two types of motif: interwoven floral elements borrowed from the Indian artist tradition and geometrical bajun designs, named after the local fishermen. Great caved doors, tropical of the old Arab trading posts in Africa, Greek open to revved courtyards and flower filled gardens.
In the shadows of the old fort (which houses on aquarium, a museum of natural history and the library) all the produce of the island and the mainland is heaped high on the market stalls in joyous disorder. The hubbub dims only when the muezzins cry rings through the air .The city has no less than 29 mosque from Msikiti wa Pwani, the oldest built at the end of the 4th century, to the grand new Riyadha mosque. Every year the great Maulidi festival celebrates the birth of Prophet Mohammad, when pilgrims flood in from all over the world and Kenya. A local saying has it that to participate in the Maulidi festival is worth half a pilgrimage to Mecca.
For more insight into the history and culture of Lamu, visit the museum housed in the old British consular residence near the harbour or its annex, the swahili house museum in the middle of the maze of old town streets near the Yumbe hotel.
A 15 minutes dhow trip takes you to Shela, south of Lamu town. A mosque and minaret loom over the hamlet, which has been developed to cope with the increase in tourism. The day’s activities comprise fishing, windsurfing, or simply lazing beneath the palm trees on a superlative beach.
A fleet of dhows bob at anchor in Lamu harbour but the only people still capable of building them in the traditional way are all at Matondi village. The biggest dhows, Jahazi are crafted in boatyard by the edge of the mangrove swamp hemming the western share. You can go there by dhows or foot, along a dusty path which takes you through coconut gloves and sparse crops.