Beknown, I think will make it an understatement, because this yearly event has been happening since November 2001 for approximately 20 years. Mostly known as the island of festivals, this tourist destination which is the only cultural landscape in Kenya on the UNESCO World Heritage has a number of festivals and events being held yearly. Naming just a few: Maulid festival, Lamu Art Festival, Lamu Yoga Festival as well as the Lamu Dhow Races.
The Lamu Island
This is an Island that is part of the Lamu Archipelago. Situated just off the shore of Kenya’s northeastern coast, in the Indian Ocean, Lamu Island is approximately 150 miles from Mombasa. As the most well-known and developed of the islands, and a center of Swahili and Islamic culture for almost 700 years, it is known for its hotels’ excellent dining and “barefoot luxury” experiences.
In case you have never been around to witness this festival. Be sure there is food, a lot of Arabs and Swahilis as the hosts plus activities which normally don’t happen elsewhere in Kenya. The activities include dhow sailing races, donkey races, numerous poetry readings, traditional henna paintings, music performances, and competitive Bao games. This game dubbed “Bao” is regarded as one of the oldest games in history with evidence showing that it has been played in the region for thousands of years. Let me explain.
Dhow sailing competition: The largest traditional boats in the Indian Ocean were called dhows, and they were wooden sailboats that were previously used to ship goods and rare spices between East Africa, Asia, and Arabia. Now the owners in Lamu Island will register and compete. Whichever dhow wins could get a reward or give the audience high testosterone levels. You are likely to hear people shouting and see the whole dynamics of sailing at a speed using a dhow.
Donkey racing: Donkeys have been the main mode of transport for decades in Lamu island. In fact, you are likely to find only one car or two. So, these animals now get to be in a race with the owners on their backs. It’s actually a thing in Lamu.
Art: If you like the idea of your skin being painted with Heena. This is a skill you will find in this place called Lamu. Especially during the cultural festival, with as low as Ksh 1000 you are likely to get transformed for your before and after IG story. It’s not painful, I promise. Those who love music and poetry will be in plenty in this season.
Food: In case you are watching your weight and figure, this is where you are prone to fail. The traditional Swahili foods will be sold to all and sundry in every corner. Lest I forget; pilau, biriani, bajia, viazi karai, Samaki wa kupaka, mbaazi za nazi, etc. will grace your streets at a fee. Tamarind will also become a sauce and a drink on the same menu. You will have an opportunity to learn about and enjoy the Swahili-Arab cuisine.
When & Where
This year (2022), the Lamu cultural festival will be happening from 24th November to 26th November. You can go by flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Nairobi or Moi International Airport Mombasa to Manda airstrip. You can also take a car or bus hire from My Hire and Rentals a road trip of approximately 330 km from Mombasa to Mokowe Jetty. From there you will take a boat to the Island. Let your vibe decide!
Visitors will have the chance to witness Lamu life at its most vivacious and joyful during the Lamu Cultural Festival.“Lamu Tamu,” as the residents of Lamu say in Kiswahili meaning-Lamu is Sweet.