Lamu Town, Kenya’s Most Unique Destination

Lamu, the oldest living town in Kenya, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite this recognition, the town is still waiting to be discovered by tourists. Situated in Lamu Island which lies along the coast of East Africa, Lamu Town is one of the few places where Swahilis originally settled. Here you will find some of Kenya’s most unique destinations.

At first sight, many tourists already sense that Lamu is a combination ancient Arab and Swahili influences. In many ways, Lamu is similar to the old town of Mombasa. Its narrow alleys go way back a hundred of years ago, when they were only used by pedestrians and as pathways of donkey carts. As of today, the town only has two cars used by local officials and the local clinic. Since they can’t fit through the streets, you will see them passing through the only major road in town, the one which lies along the beach.

Donkeys are still used to this day by the residents of Lamu. Being that its so isolated you may be pressed to find cheap international flights to this region. It’s best to fly into Nairobi first and then look at your options. The donkey’s themselves can be found pulling carts along the town’s narrow alleys. Towering over the old streets of the town is an architectural heritage remnant of its old culture. These structures are few of the world’s finest examples of Swahili architecture.

Given the old age of the Lamu’s structures which go all the way back to the 14th century, the town is said to have the oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa. And because the town’s old structures have been well preserved, Lamu is also recognized to have the best preserved Swahili settlement throughout the region.

The town’s most notable buildings include the Lamu Fort which was completed in the early 1820s, the Mnarani Mosque, and the Riyadha Mosque which was built in 1900. The Riyadha Mosque was put up by a local icon, Habib Salih, who was a Sharif and had great success in gathering students whom he taught Islam. A place you might also want to check out is the Donkey Sanctuary established by Dr. Elisabeth Svendsen. The sanctuary treats all sick donkeys brought to them, free of charge.

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