Where is Lamu?
Lamu island is part of the Lamu Archipelago in Kenya and is surrounded by many other islands, most of them smaller. This group of islands also belong to Lamu county which is located in the Northern Coast of Kenya and is one of the Six Coastal Counties in Kenya. The island, which is the current capital of the Archipelago, stands very close to the continental Kenya. The airport that corresponds to this territory, stands over the neighbourhood island Manda and the crossing linking Lamu island takes just a few minutes, on any type of boat. There is no other access to the island other than by sea. On the island which is 10km long and 6km wide, there are main towns: Lamu Town, Shela, Matondoni and Kipungani.
Lamu is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, but it´s temperature is very warm. Kenya and Lamu are situated on the East Coast of Africa, between Somalia and Tanzania, moreover boarder with Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan on its interior. The equator splits the country in two. Its capital is Nairobi, the lands holds an area of 580.000 km² and a population of 39 million people, of many cultures and backgrounds. Although this doesn´t occur nationwide, Lamu island in its vast majority is Muslim.
The territorial division we know today in Africa is quite recent. If we look back less than a hundred years ago, the colonists decided that the back continent had to be politically divided in this manner, and the Africans gave into this decision. Until then, the political map of Africa was determined by tribes that occupied that territory and are now obliged to come to terms with the new boundaries that have been set. Although there have been invaders eager to discover and plunder for many years, the first European settlers arrived in Kenya in the fifteenth century by the Portuguese Vasco de Gama. The Arabs -, mainly Omani, due to the fact that the Sultan had settled on the neighbouring island of Zanzibar - The Arabs also occupied the territory, as well as them the Indians were also there. All along the coast. The famous spice route started in India, continued along the coast that boarders with the Arab countries, up until the East African coast. Hence all the great influence these people had on culture and language, the co-official language of Kenya, Swahili. We mustn´t forget that on the East Coast of Africa there was one of the largest slave markets. The natives of this continent, were led on long voyages from the interior to the coast to be able to be sold and shipped away easily. It is also said that these travelled help figure out the strength of the slaves, due to the fact that the weakest never made it across the journey. The British Empire established the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, known since 1920 as the Colony of Kenya. The Independent Republic was established in 1963.
Lamu and the island of Zanzibar - Tanzania - are currently the major figures for the Swahili culture. A culture that is forged by a mix of many varied influences, and that perhaps survive with more intensity here, mainly because of the level of isolated nature of these places. The study of the Swahili cultures allows it to peer into many different aspects, that originate from their varied background. For example, the Swahili cuisine has important influences from the Indian, Arab and European cuisine. In addition to this, there are variations in some dished associated with religious aspects, like the absence of pork, o the prohibition of alcohol consumption due to the fact that they are Muslim. In their diet it is very common to find in the Swahili culture, fish, tropical fruit and spices.
The multicultural influences of the Swahili culture, are manifested in all aspects, whether it is art, wood work on in its architecture. For example, it is easy to observe a limited use of figures of living beings as a result of their Muslim heritage. In their place, these drawings typically used Christian culture, are substituted by geometric figures. Ventilation plays a leading role in Swahili architecture - like in the rest of Arabic architecture - In equal manner to lime coral, which is a soft shiny powder that is mixed with plaster, that is used to cover the walls of these houses. Besides the houses have a very specific structure , they are often lift up, with different rooms and the top floor destine to relax and contemplation with its wonderful " makutis ".
Ramadan is celebrated with a great sense of intensity. They have a very sociable, generous and friendly character with their neighbours as well as with those that come from afar.
The Dhow is a vessel that surrounds the entire island of Lamu. Built in wood with a triangular sail, it is a type of vessel with Arabic origin very characteristic in Swahili culture, and therefore from Lamu Archipelago. It has a special virtue that makes it different from other vessels in its origins, and it can driven without paddles even when the wind isn´t stern blowing, this is because of its triangular sails. The population of Lamu use these vessels on a daily basis to be able to visit one of their neighbouring islands, travel across the same, to fish or event to find the best sunset. Having the chance to be able to sail on a Dhow is an experience you should not miss out on.
Formerly it was widely used to transport along the coasts of the Indian Ocean ,commodities such as grain, fish or minerals, or even slaves. Currently at many times of the year Dhow competitions take place. Perhaps the one that is most well known is the one that takes place when Ramadan ends, but many people of the area organise other races during the year. You can follow the race from the Seafront or on board a boat. It is an event that brings people from all over the island