I hope you find this site useful. It is is intended to be a snap-shot glimpse into my home on Lamu Island in Kenya. It will be regularly be updated with journal entries and photos to keep you current and connected with the place. However because my house is also a holiday rental, I intend this site to be a tool for you to see the property for yourself, to learn about rental information, and to contact me if you wish. Take your time, and enjoy!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Lamu History

The trade winds of the Indian Ocean have been bringing the world to the East African coast for over a thousand years. From the interaction between Africans and foreign traders such as Arabs, Persians and Portuguese, a civilization evolved in Lamu with a unique character all of its own. Through these mixed heritages, the Swahili culture and language was born- and Lamu is the heir to this tradition. Earliest known historical reference to Lamu dates as far back as the 15th century. Yet the 19th century, under the protectorate of Oman, marks the town’s golden age. Lamu grew into a busy trade depot, its dhows trading in ivory, mangroves, grains, tortoise shells and slaves. During this period Lamu also became a center of poetry, politics and religious learning. Cradled by the sea, Lamu sticks to its old way of life and has retained more of its original character than any of the other Swahili settlements. The island itself is a beautiful place of rolling dunes and endless white sandy beaches, magnificent and remote. Sailing dhows still skim the waters and give the island its timeless feeling. The town comes to life each day with the early morning call for prayers, as it has done for centuries The winding streets, too narrow for anything wider than than people or donkeys, fill up with locals going about their business. Men gather on the seafront and market square, boats come and go, bringing the catch of the day. By mid-day the streets regain their calm, as people go for prayers and hide indoors from the heat of the day. Come late afternoon, however, Swahili social life once again flows out from the houses and into the streets, this time pulsing to the sound of Taraab music and to the scent of succulent Swahili food from street stalls.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Activities in Lamu

Whatever you decide to do for fun, our caretaker will be ready to assist you.

Lamu town:  A couple of hours spent exploring the Lamu museum is an excellent introduction to the culture and history of Lamu.  From here you can wander off into town where you can allow yourself to get lost in the narrow streets, discover Lamu’s intimate corners and beautifully carved doors, shop along the main street or relax on the seafront or the market square. Also worth visiting are the fort and the Swahili House museum.  A guide can be organized for the town visit.  Note that the people of Lamu are predominantly Muslim.  Visitors are asked to respect local custom, thus shorts and revealing clothes are not generally appreciated.

Takwa ruins on Manda island: a 3 hours round trip by dhow will take you through some beautiful mangrove forests.  There is plenty of shade at the ruins and some amazing baobab trees to be seen.  The trip has to be made when the tide is high.

Dhow trips:  From a few hours at sunset to a whole day out, sailing on one of Lamu’s traditional dhows is a wonderfully relaxing experience.  The local captains and their friendly crews will take you fishing, snorkeling or swimming...and a beach barbeque is normally included.  Manda Toto and Zinika are good locations for snorkeling.

Beach: the best beaches are beyond Shela village, a 15 min boat ride from Lamu town, walk beyond the fort for great vistas and waves.

Kayak expeditions: contact Sanddollar expeditions on www.sanddollarexpeditions.com for short or overnight kayak expeditions.

Wind surfing, deep sea fishing: This can be organised through Peponi Hotel in Shela.
Yoga: Monica at Banana house (Shela village) offers daily yoga classes, in the morning from 9 till 10, afternoon from 5 till 6pm.  Tel: 0721 / 275538 or banana@africaonline.co.ke

Wining and dining:
  there are many restaurants along the seafront, from local to more chique, alcohol is only served in the foreign owned restaurants and bars.

About the House

A View from your Doorstep

Front of Mwenye Amin House
Situated in the heart of the old town, Mwenye Amin house once belonged to the Al-Bakry family, one of Lamu’s influential lineages. The house is thought to be over 250 years old.  It is named after the late Mzee Mwenye Amin, a well respected elder and devout Muslim.  Though the house was in a poor state of repair when we found it, its charm and character were unmistakable.

Three years of renovations later, keeping to the original design and using mostly local materials, the house has retained still its “harmonious irregularity” and much of its old character.  Its massive coral walls, high ceilings, inner courtyards and large open galleries make the house, cool, light and airy, a true oasis, a place to dream about days gone by.  The simple design of the house is enriched by carved wooden doors and ornamental niches.   The bathrooms are little jewels, each of them a unique blend of old and new.  The furnishing is the creation of a local artist, recycling old dhow wood.

The house is available for rent, and the first floor and rooftop are the living quarters which sleep up to 4 adults and 2 children:  There are two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and dressing areas, one overlooking a unique garden, the other one overlooking the courtyard.  There is a third sleeping area which is ideal for children as it is close to the master bedroom. From the dining area on the first floor one can catch a glimpse of Lamu street life below. As in the old days, the rooftop is where the kitchen is located as well as a terrace overlooking Lamu town, ideal for afternoon tea with a good book or to enjoy a nice breeze.  In the evening, the roof terrace becomes the favourite place for candle lit dinners and star gazing.

The house is rented out on a self-catering basis and has a cook/caretaker, who will look after your every need.  In his fully equipped kitchen, he can prepare your meals on request.  Just tell him what you would like to eat and he will organize it for you, shopping for fresh seafood with the local fishermen at your request. You are also welcome to accompany him to the colourful local market to see what's there for yourself.