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Lamu is one among the oldest constantly inhabited Swahili cities
There are not any automobiles on the island — the streets are too slender and winding
Instead, locals rely on donkeys for transport on the land, and dhows to journey all through the archipelago
In some ways, it looks like time has given Lamu a large berth.
The East African island, perched placidly off Kenya’s coast, is dwelling to one among the oldest constantly inhabited Swahili cities – an ethnic group in East Africa who’ve lived right here for greater than 700 years. There are not any automobiles on the island – the streets are too slender and winding. Instead, locals rely on donkeys for transport on the land, and dhows to journey all through the archipelago.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lamu was as soon as the most necessary worldwide commerce heart in East Africa – as is evidenced by the Arab, Indian, Persian and European influences in the native structure. The most Swahili characteristic, nonetheless, is the use of coral stone, which reigns supreme all through the island. Not solely is coral stone robust, it’s a number of levels cooler than cement, making it an excellent constructing useful resource in a area identified for its sweltering warmth.
In truth, coral stone has a protracted historical past in the building of Lamu, as is evidenced by the Takwa ruins – the stays of what was as soon as a thriving buying and selling city. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Takwa attracted retailers from throughout the globe.
“The Arabs were here, the Indians were here, the Chinese,” says native historian Mohamed Ali.
“The Swahili people used to trade with a lot of foreign people.”
Much like Lamu’s extra fashionable buildings, the relics of this historical industrial hub are primarily made from coral stone and lime – although overseas influences abound.
Can sand remodel lives?
“The Indians introduced arches and balconies,” notes Ali.
Foreigners – lured by the charming structure and relaxed lifestyle – proceed to flock to Lamu city, with many shopping for and renovating the outdated Swahili mansions, or just constructing new ones. As a outcome, locals usually discover themselves outbid when shopping for property. Local artisan Swabry Maawy, as an illustration, recollects the problem he had in procuring his dream home.
“I was so in love with this house. I put in an offer and people from Europe put their offer. I put in another offer, they put in another offer, and somehow I got it. It was very expensive for me,” he says.
He hopes to protect the previous with the constructing, particularly as he sees extra foreigners investing in Lamu’s future, a brand new twist on its historic position as a hub for worldwide commerce.
Coastal city boasts cultural fusion