A magical place, Lamu is a historical town with many old buildings, narrow streets and a friendly Arab population. It has long been a trading centre and as far back the 11th Century dhows sailed along the East African coast to Arabia, Persia and India. With the abolition of slavery in 1907 the economy of the island went into decline. In the early 1970s, Lamu was discovered by ‘hippies,’ who loved the easy going attitude of its people and the island’s ambiance. In recent years, Lamu has attracted a wealthier contingent, who have restored the beautiful grand houses in authentic style and whose houses are sometimes available for rent. Life for the Arab/Bajuni people has not changed much, and men still wear full length robes (khanzus) and caps (kofia), whilst the ladies wear their traditional bui-bui. The young generation is very friendly and open to visitors. Meeting them is easy, as Lamu has no cars – only donkey’s – and everybody meets everybody on the two main streets.
Shela, a small fishing village next to Lamu, is becoming very fashionable with the jet set, CEO’s and royalty, who have restored the beautiful old houses to their past glory. It has also one of the best hotels on Lamu Island, Peponi, and boasts a fantastic 14 kilometre beach.