Unesco World Heritage Site
Lamu Island is a port, city, and island just off the shore of Kenya in the Indian Ocean approximately 150 miles from Mombasa. It is a part of the East African country of Kenya. Lamu was founded in the 12th Century.Lamu is one of the longest established, and best preserved remaining settlements of the Swahili tradition in east Africa that remains today. The island has continually been inhabited for over seven hundred years, and continues to be an important center in eastern Africa.
Swahili Culture The island of Lamu is a Swahili settlement filled with culture. Prior to the birth of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, people of various countries and regions migrated to the island of Lamu. Traders and sailors from the Arabian Peninsula, China, India and South-East Asia traveled across the Indian Ocean to the East African Coast to reach the island of Lamu. The diverse mixture of sailors and traders with the native people of the Lamu island created distinguishable social classes and a diverse social structure on this African Island. The Swahili language is known as Kiswahili, and has various dialects throughout the island. There are several different social classes that the people living on the island of Lamu are considered to be part of. The different social classes are separated into the following: indigenous people (Wenyeji), foreigners (Wageni), Arabs (Waarabu) and the Africans (Waafrika). These different groups of people all identity themselves differently based on their social status, but another interesting factor that makes these groups unique that is that each social status has a different dialect. The Swahili culture is not a single culture or a way of life, it is yet a mixture of traces from European, African, Arab and Asian traditions and cultures. Since the Island of Lamu was visited by many sailors and travelers in the early years of this island’s settlement it was able to become a diverse island. The Swahili culture has a rich history and embraces all parts of the society on the island of Lamu.