Lamu could be referred to as ‘an island older than time’. Although linked to the mainland by a dirt road, no cars are allowed on Lamu Island and regular daily flights carry visitors to the island. The Peri plus of the Erithrean Sea, the earliest account of the trade of the East Coast of Africa, refers to Pyralaon Island (the Lamu Archipelago). There are no further records until the 10th Century AD, but excavations on Manda show the influence of the 9th century Persians.
In the late 16th century the Turks challenged the ruling Portuguese power and many years of internecine strife followed between the various island city-states. A great battle at Shela on Lamu island resulted in victory by the Lamu people, who butchered all invaders.
The economy of the island was based on slavery but with the abolition of this trade the population fell by over a third and Lamu went into decline, only arrested with the advent of international tourism.
Lamu is an island of narrow winding streets and alleys, mosques, bazaars and whitewashed buildings which remain remote and generally unspoilt to the present day. There are several hotels on the island itself, and developments are taking place on other islands. The archipelago is a place of constant fascination with a number of old ruins and quiet little populated waterways.
There are boats available for deep sea fishing. There is an excellent museum on Lamu and curios can be tracked down in the winding side streets.
Lamu is not the place for those who prefer crowds and plenty of activity. It has a quiet and peaceful atmosphere which will always appeal to those who prefer to spend time ‘off the beaten track’.