Henry Rider Haggard, a famous Victorian adventure writer, chose Lamu as a set-off point for his famed character Allan Quatermain’s expedition to discover the wonders of Africa. Indeed, Lamu is one of the most fascinating places one could find on the continent, both in its appearance and its history.
The silence of this medieval town is disturbed only by occasional donkey scream or regular calls for prayer from the local mosques. The atmosphere of peace and quiet dominates over this timeless island, and you do not need any transport to move around: everything in town is located within a five-minute walk. The Old Fort, founded by sultan Fumo Madi ibn Abi Bakr in the early 19th century, dominates the cityscape, but probably the most famous cultural spot of predominantly Muslin Lamu would be the Riyadha Mosque. During the last week of the month of Prophet’s birth (usually January of February), the mosque hosts fascinating Maulidi festival, where pilgrims from all the neighboring Muslim countries gather for prayer. The festival also includes dhow (traditional boat) races, embroidery and crafts competitions and folk music. The event is a real feast for eyes, with all the colorful clothes and decorations spread around the town.
If you’ve seen enough of donkeys in Kenya, you may know that being a donkey is the worst thing that can happen to a living creature in Africa. Lamu might be the only place that actually opened a Donkey Sanctuary where sick or injured animals can be brought for treatment, recovery and residence absolutely free of charge.
In 2001, Lamu’s Old Town was named UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its unique architecture combines traditions from India, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and symbolizes an important cultural blend of various religions and beliefs that in the end produce such a beautiful Old Town.
More and more popular among independent travelers, Lamu now offers multiple choices of accommodation and entertainment, and many local fishermen offer private dhow rides into the open ocean.