Lamu – a trip to the 16th century

In the North of the Kenya Coast, the island town of Lamu offers a breathtaking experience of East African history. The entire town is a UNESCO World heritage site. The town is entirely preserved in its 16th century African-Arabian style, with narrow streets without cars, and all buildings constructed in corral rock. It i€™s hard to point out one specific place worth seeing, as the entire island is a must-see. Make sure to take a dhow ride, and don€’t be afraid to spend much time on board of it. In Lamu there is never any hurry, and there is no such thing as a time schedule, so you can do things at your own pace and convenience.

In fact, there are only two cars on the entire island: An ambulance and the mayor’€™s official car. There is little desire among residents to change that, as cars would be an odd element in the island’€™s identity. The island is also small€“ and safe€“ enough for people to travel by foot at all times, using donkeys for transportation. If you need to get anywhere fast, there are always boat taxis that can easily do 80 knots, or more, depending on the boat owners’€™ purchasing power and mechanical skills.

The best restaurants at the island are located along the seaside of Lamu Town, and in the international tourist hotels. Only very few places serve alcohol ‘€“ officially ‘€“ but they all serve “apple juice”, simply meaning that you can have beer in a glass, but no bottle on the table. Most of the restaurants serve traditional Swahili food – that is, mostly seafood, seasoned with exciting spice mixes.  A trip to Lamu is the right time and place to indulge in lots of seafood, and the price level is generally very reasonable.

Booking a hotel in advance is usually not necessary, unless you want to stay at the Peponi’s. Most local hotels and guesthouses don’t have advance booking, and the guesthouses in town offer surprisingly nice seaview rooms at little more than $10-$15 a night.