Part of the Lamu Archipelago in Kenya, the island is home to one of the best preserved Swahili settlements in east Africa.
Civilization in the island is concentrated in Lamu Town, which is characterized by simple structural forms enriched with verandas, inner courtyards, and elaborate details on wooden doors. It is a cultural tourist destination sprinkled with lessons about their civilization and reminiscence of generations gone by. The old town of Lamu Island is said to be the oldest and the best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, where the Muslim call to prayer wafts through narrow winding alleys, past elaborate merchant houses and donkey carts and around an old port town almost as it did back in the eighth century.
Some 260 kilometers north of Mombasa, the UNESCO World Heritage Site can be divided into two sections, north and south. Many people who have visited Kenya claimed that this island was the real highlight of the visit, neither the wildlife nor the mountain hike. The residents call the island as Kiwa Ndeo, which translates to Vain Island. As you sink deeper in the atmosphere of the town, you should realize that it has two prominent cultural features: Islamic and Swahili.
Shela in the north is a quiet seaside village and the old town of Lamu is in the south — visitors can get between the two with a 45-minute walk or a boat ride.
Lamu Island is separated from Kenya mainland, so it can only be reached by boat with daily flights coming to and from Mombasa and Malindi.
Attractions to Lamu Island
Historical values of the Lamu Island (especially Lamu Town) are the best attractions you can get. It was once the most important trade center in East Africa; and today you can see the mixture of multiple cultures of Arab, Indian, Persian, and Europeans in the architectural styles.
One thing that separates Lamu Town from other cultural sites is the absence of cars. Lamu Town bans the use of car for general public. Regardless of who you are at home, you are here as part of the general public, so there is no special treatment. Traveling from point A to point B means you have to walk or ride a donkey. The distance between an attraction and another is not that great, so walking or riding donkey should suffice in most cases.
It is not far from primitive; as a matter of fact, the locals demonstrate how a community can survive and thrive without the complexities of modern technologies. Make time and efforts to visit Lamu Island, so at least at one point in life you have the opportunity to not only learn about traditional lifestyle but actually embrace and practice it.
The village of Takwa in Lamu Island thrived in the 15th to 16th centuries, but soon after it was abandoned. Descendants of people who once lived in the village believe that the place has some sort of spiritual power. You can’t really blame them because the history and ruins of the village showed that Takwa was once a religious place.