The Lamu Archipelago is a small group of Island situated on Kenya´s Northern Coast line, near Somali. It is made up of Lamu, Manda, pate and Kiwayuu islands. Lamu town is the headquarter of Lamu District, one of the six districts of Kenya´s Coast Province, which boarders the Indian Ocean to the east, the Tana River District to the South-West, the Garissa District to the North and the republic of Somali to the North-East.
The streets of Lamu are nowhere more than eight feet wide. The proximity of the high stone walls cools the air and means that the streets are always in shadow. Their narrowness means that there are no motor vehicles in this gorgeous sea side town. All transport has to be done by handcarts and donkeys, giving it a pre-historic feel of hidden culture and adventure.
There are over 160 historic houses clustered in Stone Town, all built to the same traditional design, with a central courtyard surrounded by long narrow galleries and a flat open roof, sometimes shaded by a palm- frond thatch shelter. Most of the houses have beautiful, antique, ornate carved wooden doors and, inside, walls of elaborate carved-plaster niches that literally have to be seen to be believed!
Since the 19th century Lamu has been regarded as an important religious centre in East Africa. Every year thousands of Muslims from all over East Africa flock here for the famous Maulidi celebrations that are held during the third month of the Muslim calendar to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). During the celebrations, a number of entertaining events such as dhow races, a donkey race, bao games, henna painting, kofia making, swimming competitions and a football match are organized by the locals. In November is when The Lamu Cultural Festival takes place. Make a point to attend at least one to experience Lamu in a special way.
Another more recent festival that has come up in an effort to show of hidden culture and talent is the Lamu Food Festival. Lamu County Government put the food festival into the calendar of festivals in April 2015 and it is a gateway to the cultural cuisines of Lamu. The festival combines both cultural and culinary activities with a food investor’s forum and many opportunities for entertainments.
Groups of women from around the Lamu County compete to give the best in their unique cuisines. They display their food and are judged with the help of a renowned Chef as chief judge. This blends together the cultural tastes with the modern art of culinary to show diversity and create opportunities in the food industry for Lamu.
The Food Festival which will feature, as it did last year more than just Kenya’s most famous Swahili foods such as bhajia, samosa, pilau and chapatti, all of which derive from the Indian sub-continent, brought by Asian migrant workers and traders since the late 19th century.
There will also be a wide variety of other traditional Swahili foods coming from various indigenous communities such as the Bajun and Boni or Aweer among others. There will also be tasty sweets available at the Expo, at many of the food vendors’ stands and even coming out of the cooking classes that will be held throughout the weekend.
Traditional cooks and street food vendors from across the County will be set up along the Lamu Seafront, reminiscent of Zanzibar, selling street. There will be cooking competitions, talks given by noted Kenyan chef Ali Mandhry, as well as Food Tours of Lamu Town.
Shingai is an upcoming writer with a passion for words and expression through writing. She lived in Zimbabwe as a child and has traveled to over ten countries. She craves adventure and hopes to be an inspirational writer. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology at Daystar University.