Kempinski Blog Article
Located right on the coast of Kenya is the island of Lamu, a pretty island that is home to one of the most ancient, perfectly preserved Swahili settlements in the entire East African region.
700 years old, Lamu Old Town is the product of a history marked by international trade, and throughout the centuries Swahili, Arab, Indian, Persian and European traders have all visited the city, putting their particular cultural and architectural style on the winding avenues and clustered districts that make up the town. Around every corner is another interesting structure, the majority of which are still in use.
For visitors wanting to experience the best the city has to offer, every year the town celebrates its Swahili heritage with the enjoyable Lamu Cultural Festival over the 10th and 13th of November – here is why you should visit.
Traditional sporting skill
The festival is the perfect place to experience a cultural heritage that is not reported or copied elsewhere, with sporting skills in particular being the main focus. There are swimming races held across the shoreline, a cross-country race from the town to the nearby village of Shela, local fisherman race their dhows between buoys and choppy seas while donkey jockeys – having practiced their skills all year – take to the streets in a one-of-a-kind spectacle!
There is also the less physical attractions of the festival, all of which are just as appealing to visitors. Enjoy classic Swahili poetry readings, adorn your body with henna tattoos and watch people compete over a game of Bao – known to be one of the oldest board games on the planet.
There is also a great number and variety of musical performances, dancing troupes, craft sales and even homemade hat competitions, with visitors being encouraged to get involved wherever possible. The festival brings Lamu's community together – an enjoyable and exciting celebration of the island's tradition.
The perfect setting
A cosmopolitan city, Lamu is a wonderful place to relax before, during and after the celebrations –partly because the town is home to no cars, only donkeys! With welcoming people and a great range of bars, restaurants, shops and attractions, it is the perfect getaway location for anyone wanting to explore East Africa.