Lamu Island is a beautiful part of the eastern part of Africa and is a part of the group of islands in Kenya. The old town at Lamu is the main inhabited part of the island and is today one of the oldest and the most preserved settlements of Swahili in this part of the world. It is constructed of coral stone and also mangrove forests and is mainly made up of structural forms that are completely enriched by beautiful verandas, inner courtyards and also beautifully carved doors made of wood. Lamu has had many festivals celebrated by Muslims since the 19th century. It is today a major centre for the study of Cultures of Swahili and Islamic origin.
Lamu Island is connected to the region of Mokowe by boat and it lies on the mainland. It is also connected to Manda island .This is a region that does not have many cars on the road and one really loves to see the footpaths and the alleyways and thus tours here are always very interesting and fascinating. Travellers prefer walking around the place and experience a sense of calm in enjoying the simple pleasures of adventure and thrill here.
Tourists also are seen going by donkey or by boat and they love to enjoy the manner in which materials are seen transported on these animals. The Lamu Island is a port that was discovered by the traders from Arab countries sometime back in the 14th century. The Pwani Mosque was built here during that time. The entire island thrived on slave trade here. The island became a slave hub and in the nineteenth century it became a local power. But then the British closed the slave markets in the year 1873 and this trade declined here. In the year 1890 the island got annexed to Zanzibar and then was quite out of the picture till Kenya got independence from Great Britain in the year 1963. Tourism developed a great deal here from the year 1970 and sometime in the 18th century the Swahili architecture and culture started getting popular.
The Old Town of Lamu has been recognized as a World Heritage Centre by UNESCO. The urban structure and the architecture here exhibit a kind of cultural influence that has come from many countries like Arabia, Europe and India. So the Swahili techniques with the combination of the culture from other countries have contributed greatly to this region being special in many ways. The way in which the seaports have grown and then declined on the coastal Africa on the eastern side and the manner in which there has been a constant interaction between Arabs, Bantu, Indians, Persians and Europeans show a very outstanding feature of the Lamu Island. There has been a regular contribution to scholars and teachers who have been able to recognize Lamu as a great place and the religious function is particular to Lamu Island and is celebrated till today.
There are three other villages on the Lamu Island besides the ‘Lamu town.
Shela is one village lying around 2 miles from Lamu. No one knows how the village was born but tradition has it that it was occupied by people from the Manda Island lying nearby. Sometime in the year 1813 the elite of Pate Island joined hands with the Mazrui clan from Oman and they tried to subjugate Lamu in the Shela Battle. This attempt did not succeed and Pate faced a defeat at Shela. This signified the success and growth of Lamu as a great ladder in the archipelago. The golden age that Shela witnessed was from 1829 to 1857. Around 5 mosques were built at this time. It is very popular for the Friday mosque that it has every week. Today Shela is a great tourist centre and has many guest houses on the coast. It has some of the most fascinating beaches on the Lamu Island and it is sad that some of them were damaged during the tsunami of 2004.
The white sand, the pure ambience and the traditional dhows have a greatly clean look. Shela does not have a beach and works mainly as a port that is really busy and active.
Then there is the village of Matondoni which is very famous for the repairing and construction of dhows. The entire village looks beautiful with the ambience of lovely mangrove trees.
There is also Kipungani which is another small village on the south western coast of the island.
Thus the beautiful region of Lamu Island is a region that is filled with the best sights of the surroundings and the most fascinating zones of travel interest.