March 28, 2010

Did I Mention We Went to Lamu?

Oh where has the time gone? About three weeks ago Brian and I traveled to Lamu with two friends from TechnoServe, Adam and Bethany. Lamu, a place we had visited last year in August, is an island situated on the eastern coast of Kenya on the Indian Ocean. We left on a Thursday afternoon and stayed until that Sunday. We went during an Islamic festival called Maulidi, which celebrates the birth of the prophet Mohammed. Lamu, and Shela, where we stayed, are predominantly Muslim areas, showcasing a unique glimpse into the old Islamic Swahili coast.

Thursday afternoon, as we were waiting for Adam and Bethany to arrive, Brian and I were able to view the last of a two day dhow race; watching large white sails rippling in the fierce wind, while several men scampered to an off-shooting beam to balance out the boat. It was quite exhilarating knowing that this was an age-old tradition during the festival in Lamu.

That night we witnessed mass prayers in the town center, with men seated on the ground on one side of a large mosque and women on the other. This was a bit of an intense experience for both Bethany and I as a woman forced scarves over the top of our heads and we were doused with what was perceived to be holy water. We didn't stay long after that, feeling out of place and not wanting to offend anyone. 

The next day we enjoyed a walk through the small beach town of Shela and then took a tour of the larger Lamu with a local guide. That evening was the culmination of the festival presented by a massive parade of men singing, chanting and playing music through the streets. That was followed by a continuation of singing and dancing near the mosque, men and women celebrating separately late into the night.

It was beach time the following day with Bethany and Brian both impressively swimming out to a nearby sandbar while Adam and I hung out near the shore. We took a quick hike up one of the massive sand dunes to capture a spectacular view of the coastline. That evening as the sun was setting we enjoyed a relaxing dhow ride in the soothing waters of the Indian Ocean.

Our final day we took care of our requisite tourist shopping at the local Massai Market and purchased much needed ornate dhow boards. Brian and I almost ended up with three, due to excited hoarding instincts, but I was able to intervene successfully, so now we only have two. 

It was then a small plane ride back to Nairobi to shake out the sand in our clothes and leave the crashing sound of waves behind us. Overall it was an amazing and interesting cultural experience with enjoyable newfound friends.
Racing dhow

Adam, Bethany, Brian and I arriving into Shela by dhow from the airport

Shela beach

Children in Shela

Tour of Lamu

Decorative, hand-carved door frames in Lamu

Getting ready for the parade in Lamu

The festive Maulidi parade in the streets of Lamu

Local Muslim women looking for a place to watch the parade

Too cute!

Little boy waving a flag

Singing and dancing by local Muslim men

Donkeys carrying sand to a construction site in Shela

Catch of the day

Atop one of the sand dunes in Shela looking out over the Indian Ocean

Brian and Bethany standing on top of a sandbar

Sunset dhow ride

Brian's new friend

Dhow 'eyes'

Our almost three dhow boards, we got rid of the one in the middle

Flight home

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