Culture was beckoning from the minute we landed in this very old Swahili town, Lamu. No hooting of Matatus, no call outs from touts, no traffic jam, and yes, no roads, except small winding pathways. We didn’t see any billboard secretly blurring a natural view, nor fast food joints on the streets… Lamu was about to take us by storm (or by heart even).
Lamu was about to prove to us what culture and an original town is – and it sure did, successfully.
On arrival, the KenyanVibe team was stunned by the alignment of boats at the seashore, the polite call outs of ‘tukupeleke Lamu town au Shela’ had us from the airstrip to the minute we stepped into the boat, which cost Ksh.200. These and more stood out for us.
Goes without saying that the coastal people have always proven to be extremely friendly. This fruit has not fallen far away from the people of Lamu, extremely welcoming and on arrival were tagged ‘mgeni’ until the very last day. There was so much kindness and respect from everyone we came across whether in the market place, the seafront, the banks etc. The people were extremely welcoming and very ready to assist where need be, particularly when it came to navigating the narrow Lamu pathways.
The Dressing Culture
This swept us by storm. Nairobi people can be rampant with carrying ‘coast-effective-clothing’ however you might need to ditch this for Lamu. Despite the extreme heat the Bui Bui culture and women covering themselves really stood out. At some point, we felt the need to maintain our trousers and much decent clothing in respect to the Muslim religion and the dressing culture. We noted posters in areas like Shela vividly pointing that decent clothing was highly encouraged for tourists and visitors.
We might have not espied even one church, perhaps from not thoroughly searching, however, we successfully did identify the old mosque in Lamu town. The Muslim religion is practised by 90% of the Lamu people, thus the staunch nature of it is unmissable from the morning Salas actively waking the town. Every fast early morning movement to the mosques was very life awakening, the loyalty of the people to the service was challenging and a discipline we carried with us.
Transport & The Roads
Take a moment and picture a town with no roads, just a car or two insight, no traffic jam just the sea waves wafting you welcome. The sounds of nature very evident, walking and use of donkeys as a daily transport mode. Firstly, the donkeys were not co-operative with us or us with them, perhaps it was the lack of safety belts (haha). This experience was unforgettable, Lamu is highly endowed with thorough narrow paths within the streets in the town thus many prefer to walk or take donkey rides. However, this is vastly favored by the fact that most shops are within the streets just neighbouring the houses thus everything is a walking distant and easily accessible.
The moment of reckoning is here. Depending on what you define nightlife as, Lamu proved to have none of it. There was no loud club banging till morning, no deejay posters in the town calling out for a Friday night out, nope! However, there were restaurants and cafeterias to go have a drink or two, beers were rather expensive and the only promising club that was a boat ride away from the town named ‘Floating Bar’ was not exactly a consistent party joint due to majority of residentials being Muslims and are not exactly allowed to party, thanks to their doctrine. However, house parties with your buddies could be possible.
Recreational Activities & Lifestyle
In our curiosity, we asked what exactly do Lamu people do for fun aside from the snorkelling, boat rides, fishing which is a normal practice for them. We were shocked by the answer as many of them would look forward to days when they would travel to Mombasa or Nairobi to see fast-moving cars on roads, experience playgrounds for the children such as trampolines, face painting, animal orphanages, experience a loud life, view the vast lights and tall buildings in Nairobi and be taken away with how expressive Nairobi or Mombasa can be.
This had us appreciate the adage ‘one man’s meat is another poison’. We run from the loud life, we hope to find hidden gems yet to everyone there’s a gem, our nature in the city is a gem to others. Who we are however loud or quiet is golden enough. Lamu proved to be one of the best towns for us with its very authentic nature and its kept discipline. We are definitely going back.
Featured Image: Fly540 Website