The trade winds of the Indian Ocean have been bringing visitors to the Lamu Archipelago for centuries. Commerce brought the East African coast into contact with distant peoples and cultures as early as two thousand years ago. The earliest known old historical records – the 1st century AD Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, as well as the 3rd Century AD Ptolemy’s Geography – talk of the coast, its inhabitants and the trade. The local people of Lamu have a long established tradition of welcoming travelers. In the same spirit, the Lamu Cultural Promotion Group bids you a warm ‘Karibuni’ to the 9th Lamu Cultural Festival to experience a heritage and traditions that have earned Lamu Old Town the coveted place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Lamu Old Town is a unique and rare historical living heritage with more than 700 years of continuous settlement. Since its inscription as a World Heritage Site In 2001, the Lamu Cultural Promotion Centre, a community based group, has been organizing an annual cultural festival to promote the unique Swahili heritage of the Lamu Archipelago.
The three day festival showcases traditional dances, displays of handicraft and competitions on water and land (Swahili poetry, donkey races, dhow races), and musical performances.
This year’s programme will feature a dramatized performance of the poem ‘Mnazi: Vuta N’Kuvute’ (The Coconut tree; “A Tug of War’) by the Kenyan poet, Abdilatif Abdalla, from his collection of poems ‘Sauti ya Dhiki’ (penned while serving a prison term during the Kenyatta government in post independent Kenya). Musical performances from Morocco and Brazil will highlight the universality of shared influences over time, and Praful Kumar and party from Mombasa will entertain the spectators till dawn with music from Bollywood.
There will also be displays of traditional handicraft, henna painting, Swahili food and a Swahili bridal ceremony.
Lamu Fort will host a poster exhibition on ‘Bombay Africans (1850 -1910)’, part of a series of exhibitions from the Royal Geographical Society’s project ‘Crossing Continents – Connecting communities’. ‘Bombay Africans’ is a unique group of Africans liberated by British cruisers from Arab slaving dhows in the Indian Ocean and taken to India where many were placed in local employment or in charitable institution. These freed slaves proved to be an important source of interpreters and assistants in the history of exploration in Eastern Africa.
The other highlights of the Festival include the official opening of the restored ‘Dheule Mosque’ in Shela (a mid 18th century traditional Swahili exhibiting cultural, historical and architectural traits that are of invaluable significance to the people of the Lamu archipelago) as well as the launch of the pictorial book ‘Lamu, Kenya’s Enchanted Island’ with photographs by Carol Beckwith, Angela Fischer, David Coulson and Nigel Pavitt and text by George and Lorna Abungu and poems by Sheikh Nabhany.
Lamu offers accommodation to suit all pockets. Transport by road to Lamu is safe. Public transport from Mombasa leaves daily at 7, 10 and 11am (Tawakal Bus, Tel. Mombasa 041 2222975, Mob. 0723141777, Tel. Lamu 042 4633380). The journey from Mombasa to Mokowe on the mainland takes six hours, followed by a half an hour boat ride to Lamu Island. Attached is a list of flying packages offered by Phoenix Safaris.
Other attractions include:
· Lamu Museum, exhibiting Swahili culture and the mainland’s non-Swahili groups
· Lamu Fort, dating back to 1821, having been built by the Sultan of Oman shortly after Lamu’s victory over Pate and Mombasa in the battle of Shela
· German Post Office Museum
· Swahili House Museum
· Takwa National Monument on Manda Island (a settlement dating back to AD 1500, with ruins of a Great Mosque and a pillar tomb)
· Ruins of Shanga, an 8th century Swahili settlement, on Pate Island, containing remains of the coral walls of 160 houses, two palaces, three mosques and hundreds of tombs
· The early Swahili settlement of Pate, once a power in the region
· Numerous sites and monuments that showcase Swahili civilization at its height in the 15th century
· Donkey sanctuary for the old beasts of burden
· The dhow making village of Matondoni
A wonderful opportunity to experience the island’s unspoiled beaches, medieval ambience, architecturally magnificent Old Town, gracious population, and traditions of an enchanted island where history continues to live.