On April 20th 1980 I was in Lamu.
|From my room: My picture|
I would take a breakfast in the cold drinks shop with the sectarian literature on the main street or in another cafe I called the yoghurt place. I would walk the pretty up and down inland route to the beach past the shambas, liking the colours, but noticing the barbed wire so common in Kenya. I would take a swim in the beautiful water with a strong current. I would sunbathe. I would shelter under the palms or in the woodland nearby and read. Once I watched a stone-curlew on its nest only a few feet from me. I would take a beer at Peponi's, the hotel by the beach. In the evening I'd take supper, at Ghai's perhaps where the seafood was good, if I felt well-off or if friends were going. Then I'd go to Petley's for evening drinks and see who was there - and heated conversation would inevitably follow. It was a perfect place for a holiday.
After a week or so I fell in with a group of British VSO volunteers teaching English in Kenya, along with two who had been teaching in South Sudan, and this turned my plans for the future into a new direction. I went with them on local dhows to other spots along the coast and a nearby island. I moved to a room in a private house in one of the old buildings high up in the old town. We put a party on one night in another house.
Lamu was hot and quiet. There were no active motor vehicles allowed on the island. The Swahili culture seemed strong. The people were Muslim, the influence was middle-eastern. Dhows still operated between Lamu and the Persian Gulf and you could see them occasionally tied up in the harbour, magnificent, traditionally built and single-sailed. When one arrived, the next day the little shops were selling dates from the Gulf. The old houses, such as the one I stayed in, used coral stone in the building and this gave them a quite special feeling.
There is a piece about Swahili architecture here.
|Lamu: My picture|
|Lamu: My picture|
|Ocean-going Dhow in Lamu: My picture|