Lamu Island in Kenya

Monday, 3 February 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage

Lamu Town © flickr.com - Erik (HASH) Hersman/cc-by-2.0

Lamu Town © flickr.com – Erik (HASH) Hersman/cc-by-2.0

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. In 2001, Lamu was designated a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO site. Centuries ago the island of Lamu was highly dependent on the function of slavery in its economy, since abolishment of slavery the island has looked for other ways to bring wealth back into its economy. With the diverse cultural and colorful design of Lamu, it is a place of interest for tourists drawn to the East African Coast.

The island of Lamu is a Swahili settlement filled with culture. Prior to the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, people of various countries and regions migrated to the island of Lamu. Traders and sailors from the Arabian Peninsula, China, India and South-East Asia traveled across the Indian Ocean to the East African Coast to reach the island of Lamu. The diverse mixture of sailors and traders with the native people of the Lamu island created distinguishable social classes and a diverse social structure on this African Island. The Swahili language is known as Kiswahili, and has various dialects throughout the island. There are several different social classes that the people living on the island of Lamu are considered to be part of. The different social classes are separated into the following: indigenous people (Wenyeji), foreigners (Wageni), Arabs (Waarabu) and the Africans (Waafrika). These different groups of people all identity themselves differently based on their social status, but another interesting factor that makes these groups unique that is that each social status has a different dialect. The Swahili culture is not a single culture or a way of life, it is yet a mixture of traces from European, African, Arab and Asian traditions and cultures. Since the Island of Lamu was visited by many sailors and travelers in the early years of this island’s settlement it was able to become a diverse island. The Swahili culture has a rich history and embraces all parts of the society on the island of Lamu.

Dhow race at Lamu © FredD/cc-by-sa-3.0 Kipungani © Vincent van Zeijst/cc-by-sa-3.0 Lamu Town © Megaedwin/cc-by-sa-4.0 Lamu Town © Megaedwin/cc-by-sa-4.0 Lamu Town © flickr.com - Erik (HASH) Hersman/cc-by-2.0 Lamu Town © flickr.com - MysteryBee/cc-by-sa-2.0 Matondoni © Vincent van Zeijst/cc-by-sa-3.0 Shella © flickr.com - Cessna 206/cc-by-2.0
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Lamu Town © flickr.com - Erik (HASH) Hersman/cc-by-2.0
Because of the small winding roads on the Island, residents are forced to walk via foot or by donkey to get to wherever they are going. The use of cars for the general public is banded. The weather in this region is generally warm ranging from about 23 and 33 °C. Experiencing the warmest weather from December to April and the coldest weather from may to July. A port was founded on the island of Lamu by Arab traders at least as early as the fourteenth century, when the Pwani Mosque was built. The island prospered on the slave trade. After defeating Pate Island in the nineteenth century, the island became a local power, but it declined after the British forced the closure of the slave markets in 1873. In 1890 the island became part of Zanzibar and remained obscure until Kenya was granted independence from Great Britain in 1963. Tourism developed from the 1970’s, mainly around the eighteenth century Swahili architecture and traditional culture. Along its southern coastline the area of Lamu island is composed of mainly sand dunes, which cover the Shela Aquifier which is responsible for the islands main source of water.

Lamu Old Town, the principal inhabited part of the island, is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa.. This city has had civilians living in it for over seven hundred years, while most of the other East African settlements along the coast do not have inhabitants.Due to Lamu’s history in trading gold, spices, and slaves, Lamu is truly a melting pot of different cultures and Arabic, Persian, Indian, European, and Swahili traditions that are evidently on display in Lamu’s Architecture. Lamu is an important center for trade because it is the most important trade center in East Africa. People migrated from various lands and from various cultures to conduct trade at the port of Lamu, the abundance of a diversity of people trading at the island of Lamu impacted the future culture of this island. Not only did the traders help the economy of Lamu grow, but it also gave the local people the opportunity to adopt different customs as their own. Because of this, Lamu is also an important cultural, technological, and religious center in Eastern Africa. Lamu has hosted major Muslim religious festivals since the 19th century, and has become a significant center for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures which scholars from both traditions studying in Lamu. Most evident tradition in Lamu however is the Swahili. In falling characteristically with the Swahili culture, most of the town is built with coral stone and mangrove timber. The town is characterized by the simplicity of structural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors. It is also uniquely Swahili in that the towns is spatially organized, and is littered with narrow winding streets

Read more on LonelyPlanet.com – Lamu Island, Swahili culture, TheCultureTrip.com – The Best Of Swahili Cuisine In Kenya, Wikivoyage Lamu and Wikipedia Lamu Island (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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