|Time zone||UTC+3 (EAT)|
|Official name||Lamu Old Town|
|Criteria||Cultural: (ii), (iv), (vi)|
|Inscription||2001 (25th Session)|
|Area||15.6 ha (39 acres)|
|Buffer zone||1,200 ha (3,000 acres)|
Lamu or Lamu Town is a small town on Lamu Island, which in turn is a part of the Lamu Archipelago in Kenya. Situated 341 kilometres (212 mi) by road northeast of Mombasa that ends at Mokowe Jetty, from where the sea channel has to be crossed to reach Lamu Island. It is the headquarters of Lamu County and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town contains the Lamu Fort on the seafront, constructed under Fumo Madi ibn Abi Bakr, the sultan of Pate, and was completed after his death in the early 1820s. Lamu is also home to 23 mosques, including the Riyadha Mosque, built in 1900, and a donkey sanctuary.
The original name of the town is Amu,which the Arabs termed Al-Amu (آامو) and the Portuguese "Lamon". The Portuguese applied the name to the entire island as Amu was the chief settlement.
Lamu Town on Lamu Island is Kenya's oldest continually inhabited town, and was one of the original Swahili settlements along coastal East Africa. It is believed to have been established in 1370.
Today, the majority of Lamu's population is Muslim.
The town was first attested in writing by an Arab traveller Abu-al-Mahasini, who met a judge from Lamu visiting Mecca in 1441.
In 1506, the Portuguese fleet under Tristão da Cunha sent a ship to blockade Lamu, a few days later the rest of the fleet arrived forcing the king of the town to quickly concede to pay an annual tribute to them with 600 Meticals immediately.The Portuguese action was prompted by the nation's successful mission to control trade along the coast of the Indian Ocean. For a considerable time, Portugal had a monopoly on shipping along the East African coast and imposed export taxes on pre-existing local channels of commerce. In the 1580s, prompted by Turkish raids, Lamu led a rebellion against the Portuguese. In 1652, Oman assisted Lamu to resist Portuguese control.
Lamu's years as an Omani protectorate during the period from the late 17th century to the early 19th century mark the town's golden age. Lamu was governed as a republic under a council of elders known as the Yumbe who ruled from a palace in the town; little exists of the palace today other than a ruined plot of land.During this period, Lamu became a centre of poetry, politics, arts and crafts as well as trade. Many of the buildings of the town were constructed during this period in a distinct classical style. Aside from its thriving arts and crafts trading, Lamu became a literary and scholastic centre. Woman writers such as the poet Mwana Kupona – famed for her Advice on the Wifely Duty – had a higher status in Lamu than was the convention in Kenya at the time.
In 1812, a coalition Pate-Mazrui army invaded the archipelago during the Battle of Shela. They landed at Shela with the intention of capturing Lamu and completing the fort which had begun to be constructed, but were violently suppressed by the locals in their boats on the beach as they tried to flee.In fear of future attacks, Lamu appealed to the Omanis for a Busaidi garrison to operate at the new fort and help protect the area from Mazrui rebels along the Kenyan coast.
In the middle of the 19th century, Lamu came under the political influence of the sultan of Zanzibar. The Germans claimed Wituland in June 1885. [ citation needed ]The Germans considered Lamu to be of strategical importance and an ideal place for a base. From 22 November 1888 to 3 March 1891, there was a German post office in Lamu to facilitate communication within the German protectorate in the sultanate. It was the first post office to be established on the East African coast; today there is a museum in Lamu dedicated to it: the German Post Office Museum. In 1890, Lamu came under British colonial rule as stipulated in the terms of the Heligoland–Zanzibar Treaty. Kenya gained political independence in 1963, although the influence of the Kenyan central government has remained low, and Lamu continues to enjoy some degree of local autonomy.
In a 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage , Global Heritage Fund identified Lamu as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and damage, citing insufficient management and development pressure as primary causes.
While the terror group Al Shabaab kidnappings had placed Lamu off-limits in September 2011, by early 2012 the island was considered safe. On 4 April 2012, the US Department of State lifted its Lamu travel restriction.However, two attacks in the vicinity of Lamu in July 2014, for which Al Shabaab claimed responsibility, led to the deaths of 29 people.
Lamu has a tropical dry savanna climate (Köppen climate classification As).
|Climate data for Lamu|
|Average high °C (°F)||30.9|
|Average low °C (°F)||24.5|
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||6|
|Average rainy days||1||1||3||10||15||15||11||8||7||5||6||3||85|
|Source: World Meteorological Organization|
Lamu's economy was based on slave trade until abolition in the year 1907.Other traditional exports included ivory, mangrove, turtle shells and rhinoceros horn, which were shipped via the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and India. In addition to the abolition of slavery, construction of the Uganda Railroad in 1901 (which started from the competing port of Mombasa) significantly hampered Lamu's economy.
Tourism has gradually refuelled the local economy in recent times, and it is a popular destination for backpackers. Many of the locals are involved in giving trips on dhows to tourists.Harambee Avenue is noted for its cuisine, and has a range of stores including the halwa shop selling sweet treats and miniature mutton kebabs and cakes are sold at night. Coconut, mango and grapefruit and seafood such as crab and lobster are common ingredients. The town contains a central market, the Gallery Baraka and Shumi's Designs shop, and the Mwalimu Books store.
The oldest hotel in the town, Petley's Inn, is situated on the waterfront.Other hotels include the American-restored Amu House, the 20-room Bahari Hotel, Doda Villas, the Swedish-owned Jannat House, the 3-storey 23-room Lamu Palace Hotel, Petley's Inn, the 13-room Stone House Hotel, which was converted from an 18th-century house, and the 18-room Sunsail Hotel, a former trader's house on the waterfront with high ceilings.
Mangroves are harvested for building poles, and Lamu has a sizeable artisan community, including carpenters who are involving in boat building and making ornate doors and furniture.
The town is served by Lamu District Hospital to the south of the main centre, operated by the Ministry of Health. It was established in the 1980s,and is one of the best-equipped hospitals on the Kenyan coast.
China has begun feasibility studies to transform Lamu into the largest port in East Africa, as part of their String of Pearls strategy.
The town was founded in the 14th century and it contains many fine examples of Swahili architecture. The old city is inscribed on the World Heritage List as "the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa".
Once a centre for the slave trade, the population of Lamu is ethnically diverse. Lamu was on the main Arabian trading routes, and as a result, the population is largely Muslim.To respect the Muslim inhabitants, tourists in town are expected to wear more than shorts or bikinis.
There are several museums, including the Lamu Museum, home to the island's ceremonial horn (called siwa);other museums are dedicated to Swahili culture and to the local postal service. Notable buildings in Lamu town include:
Lamu Fort is a fort in the town. Fumo Madi ibn Abi Bakr, the sultan of Pate, started to build the fort on the seafront, to protect members of his unpopular government. He died in 1809, before the first storey of the fort was completed. The fort was completed by the early 1820s.
Habib Salih, a Sharif with family connections to the Hadramaut, Yemen, settled on Lamu in the 1880s, and became a highly respected religious teacher. Habib Salih had great success gathering students around him, and in 1900 the Riyadha Mosque was built.He introduced Habshi Maulidi, where his students sang verse passages accompanied by tambourines. After his death in 1935 his sons continued the madrassa, which became one of the most prestigious centres for Islamic studies in East Africa. The Mosque is the centre for the Maulidi Festival, which are held every year during the last week of the month of the Prophet's birth. During this festival, pilgrims from Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Zanzibar and Tanzania join the locals to sing the praise of Mohammad. Mnarani Mosque is also of note.
Since the island has no motorised vehicles, transportation and other heavy work is done with the help of donkeys. There are some 3000 donkeys on the island.Dr. Elisabeth Svendsen of The Donkey Sanctuary in England first visited Lamu in 1985. Worried by the conditions for the donkeys, the Sanctuary was opened in 1987. The Sanctuary provides treatment to all donkeys free of charge.
Lamu is home to the Maulidi Festival, held in January or February, which celebrates Mohammed's birth. It features a range of activities from "donkey races to dhow-sailing events and swimming competitions".The Lamu Cultural Festival, a colourful carnival, is usually held in the last week of August, which since 2000 has featured traditional dancing, crafts including kofia embroidery, and dhow races. The Donkey Awards, with prizes given to the finest donkeys, are given in March/April. Women's music in the town is also of note and they perform the chakacha , a wedding dance. Men perform the hanzua (a sword dance) and wear kanzus .
Lamu Old Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, based on 3 criteria:
In 2011, proposals were being advanced to build a deep-water port which would have much greater capacity in terms of depth of water, number of berths, and ability for vessels to arrive and depart at the same time than the country's main port at Mombasa.
Manda Airport is located on Manda Island in the Lamu Archipelago of Lamu County on the western shore of the Indian Ocean, on the Kenya coast serves the Lamu and the county.
Its location is approximately 450 kilometres (280 mi) by air, southeast of Nairobi International Airport, the country's largest civilian airport. Several airlines serves the area including, Air Kenya, Safari Link and Fly 540 — there are daily flights to Malindi, Mombasa and Nairobi.
The song "Lamu"by Christian singer Michael W. Smith is inspired by the island. In the song, Smith refers to Lamu as "an island hideaway...the place we soon will be a rebirth from life's demise...where the world is still". The song is about running away from life's problems.
Lamu is the setting of Anthony Doerr's short story "The Shell Collector" from his collection of stories by the same name.
Part of the events in the novel Our Wild Sex in Malindi (Chapters 14 and 15) by Andrei Gusev takes place in Lamu and on the neighboring Manda Island.
Swahili, also known by its native name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the native language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of East and Southern Africa, including Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, some parts of Malawi, Somalia, Zambia, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Comorian, spoken in the Comoros Islands, is sometimes considered a dialect of Swahili, although other authorities consider it a distinct language. Sixteen to twenty percent of Swahili vocabulary is Arabic loanwords, including the word swahili, from Arabic sawāḥilī. The Arabic loanwords date from the contacts of Arabian traders with the Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Africa over many centuries. Under Arab trade influence, Swahili emerged as a lingua franca used by Arab traders and Bantu peoples of the East African Coast.
Zanzibar is an insular autonomous region of Tanzania. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba Island. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, a World Heritage Site.
Mombasa is a coastal city in southeast Kenya along the Indian Ocean. The city is known as the white and blue city in Kenya. It is the country's oldest and second-largest city, with a population of about 1,208,333 people according to the 2019 census. Its metropolitan region is the second-largest in the country, and has a population of 3,528,940 people.
Stone Town of Zanzibar, also known as Mji Mkongwe, is the old part of Zanzibar City, the main city of Zanzibar, in Tanzania. The newer portion of the city is known as Ng'ambo, Swahili for 'the other side'. Stone Town is located on the western coast of Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Former capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate, and flourishing centre of the spice trade as well as the slave trade in the 19th century, it retained its importance as the main city of Zanzibar during the period of the British protectorate. When Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined each other to form the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar kept a semi-autonomous status, with Stone Town as its local government seat.
Malindi is a town on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Sabaki River, lying on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. It is 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa. The population of Malindi was 119,859 as of the 2019 census. It is the largest urban centre in Kilifi County.
Kilwa Kisiwani is an island, national historic site, and hamlet community located in the township of Kilwa Masoko, the district seat of Kilwa District in the Tanzanian region of Lindi Region in southern Tanzania. Kilwa Kisiwani is the largest of the nine hamlets in the town Kilwa Masoko and is also the least populated hamlet in the township with less than 1,000 residents. At its peak Kilwa hosted over 10,000 inhabitants in the Middle Ages. Since 1981 the entire island of Kilwa Kisiwani has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the nearby ruins of Songo Mnara. Despite its significant historic reputation, Kilwa Kisiwani is still home to a small and resilient community of native residents that have inhabited the island for centuries. Kilwa Kisiwani is one the seven World Heritage Site located in Tanzania.
The Swahili people are a Bantu ethnic group inhabiting East Africa. Members of this ethnicity primarily reside on the Swahili coast, in an area encompassing the Zanzibar archipelago, littoral Kenya, the Tanzania seaboard, northern Mozambique, the Comoros Islands, and Northwest Madagascar. More recently, Swahili identity is centered around any person of African descent who speaks Swahili as their first language, is Muslim and lives in a town on the main urban centers of most of modern day Tanzania and coastal Kenya, northern Mozambique and the Comoros, through a process of swahilization.
Pate (Paté) Island is located in the Indian Ocean close to the northern coast of Kenya, to which it belongs. It is the largest island in the Lamu Archipelago, which lie between the towns of Lamu and Kiunga in the former Coast Province. The island is almost completely surrounded by mangroves.
Lamu Island is a port, city, and island just off the shore of Kenya in the Indian Ocean approximately 150 miles from Mombasa. It is a part of the East African country of Kenya. Lamu was founded in the 12th Century. Lamu is one of the longest established, and best preserved remaining settlements of the Swahili tradition in east Africa that remains today. The island has continually been inhabited for over seven hundred years, and continues to be an important center in eastern Africa.
Swahili architecture is a term used to designate a whole range of diverse building traditions practiced or once practiced along the eastern and southeastern coasts of Africa. Rather than simple derivatives of Islamic architecture from the Arabic world, Swahili stone architecture is a distinct local product as a result of evolving social and religious traditions, environmental changes, and urban development.
The Sultanate of Zanzibar, also known as the Zanzibar Sultanate, was a state controlled by the Sultan of Zanzibar, in place between 1856 and 1964. The Sultanate's territories varied over time, and at their greatest extent spanned all of present-day Kenya and the Zanzibar Archipelago of the Swahili Coast. After a decline, the state controlled only Zanzibar and a 16-kilometre-wide (10 mi) strip along the Kenyan coast, with the interior of Kenya controlled by the British Kenya Colony.
The Ottoman–Portuguese Conflicts (1586–1589) were armed military engagements which took place between the Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire along the coast of eastern Africa. The conflict resulted from the expansion of the Portuguese Empire into territory controlled by the Adal Sultanate.
The Swahili coast is a coastal area of the Indian Ocean in Southeast Africa inhabited by the Swahili people. It includes Sofala (Mozambique), Mombasa, Gede, Pate Island, Lamu, Malindi, and Kilwa. In addition, several coastal islands are included in the Swahili coast such as Zanzibar and Comoros.
The mtepe is a boat associated with the Swahili people. The mtepe's planks are held together by wooden pegs and coir, so it is a sewn boat designed to be flexible in contrast to the rigid vessels of western technique.
The Shirazi people, also known as Mbwera, are an ethnic group inhabiting the Swahili coast and the nearby Indian ocean islands. They are particularly concentrated on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Comoros.
The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Mombasa, Coast Province, Kenya.
Lamu Fort is a fortress in the town of Lamu in northeastern Kenya. Originally situated on the waterfront, the fort today is located in a central position in the town, about 70 metres (230 ft) from the main jetty on the shore.
The Battle of Shela occurred around 1812 on the sand dunes near the village of Shela on Lamu Island, in what is now Kenya, just south of the larger village of Lamu. The people of Lamu won against superior forces from Mombasa and Pate. The battle led to the domination of the coast by the rulers of Oman.
Maritime archaeology in East Africa spans the range from the horn of Somalia south to Mozambique, and includes the various islands and island chains dotting the map off the coast of Somalia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. Primary areas along this coast include the Zanzibar, Lamu, and Kilwa Archipelagos. Although East African societies developed nautical capabilities for themselves, most of the maritime artifacts point to external merchants from Mediterranean cultures like Egypt and Greece, Indian and Chinese from South and East Asia in the early stages, to the great European powers during the Ages of Colonization and Imperialism.
Fatuma binti Yusuf al-Alawi was a queen of Unguja in pre-Sultanate Zanzibar. A supporter of the Portuguese in their war against Oman, she sent supplies to the Europeans at the Siege of Fort Jesus. She was captured during the subsequent Omani occupation of Zanzibar and exiled to Oman. Allowed to return in 1709 she ruled the island as a client state of Oman for the rest of her life.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Lamu .|
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