About 6,800

Lamu Island and Lamu Archipelago have been of great importance for many centuries.
Look at an old map and you will see Lamu clearly indicated north of Mombasa.
There have been urban settlements in Lamu area for at least a thousand years.
Manda Town, the island where the airstrip is, is probably the oldest settlement
on the whole East African Coast.

Lamu Archipelago

Lamu like the other East African coastal cities was already established by traders
from Oman in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
In the 14th century Lamu was an important trade center colonized by the arabs.
Portuguese traders came and went. At the beginning of the 1800 Omanis settled
in Zanzibar and reasserted Omani authority in the area under the Sultan.
Lamu Fort was built around 1810 and the governor (Liwali) had his residence built
right behind the fort about the same time. Present Subira House.

Lamu is a true Swahili settlement, the cradle of Swahili language.
There is a treasure of oral poetry originating from the neighbouring islands.
Poetry is still remembered and much read and appears in everyday life.
Intermarriage and the introduction of Islam produced the new culture called Swahili,
after the Arabic word sahil, for coast.
Older settlements have been traced on the Island of Manda and Pate, North of Lamu.

Taqua Ruins on Manda, a lovely place to visit.
A ruined town from 7th century,
a site with mosque and house walls opposite Lamu.

Patte Island and more historic sites

Siyu Fort on Patte Island

In 1895, the British took control over the Kenyan coast. Slavery was banished from the island
which hurt the agriculture industry enormously. Similarly the East African Railway was built
from Mombasa to Lake Victoria. Mombasa became the principal port for all of East Africa.
An economic decline followed, people moved to Mombasa to find work, trade almost stopped.
Today we can no longer greet the old sailing ships anchoring up outside town sailing south
with the North east monsoon winds, bringing spices and silk and returning north in march
after loading the huge piles of Lamu mangrove poles, building material to take
back to the Persian Gulf.
But with the decline the old Swahili structure has been well preserved.
The early 1979's tourism has helped revitalize Lamu's economy.

Lamu, a place of contrasts
Recently modern hotels have appeared, set up with taste and luckily no tourist bulk creations.
Tourism on Lamu is small-scale, the beach in Shella is still unspoilt,
people are welcoming and friendly.
Lamu is a peaceful slow and interesting place where you may by first sight see a man
in an burnt out canoe fishing by line or a 100 hp speedboat racing to
some small luxurity secluded beach hotel.
You can easily experience Lamu life like 500 years back or have the fanciest modern commodities.

Boat building, trade, mangrove exports, swahili style furniture, woodcarving,
Taarab Music, spectacular weddings,
so many rich traditions that you can experience if you take your time.