Kenya Coast’s Watamu and Lamu Island

in Kenya

Whimsical Watamu:

Friends Anna and Greg discovered that Kitengela’s Croze family also owned a large rental home on the coast north of Mombasa in a beach town called Watamu.  They invited a group of friends for a weekend at the Croze home in Watamu.  After a brief flight to Malindi, we were driven out to Watamu then down a long driveway to the Croze home.  The sight that greeted the group was breath-taking.  The view of the beach was glorious and could be seen from anywhere along the back of the house—the walk to the beach was about ¼ mile trek downhill but worth it.  The house itself was painted and mosaic-ed inside and out with all sorts of fish, animals, and objects.  The backyard was filled with Kitengela-glass sculptures and a family of very noisy ducks who kept inviting themselves inside the house whenever there was a briefly open door.

Needless to say, a wonderful time was had by all eight in the group since there was a cook and cleaner that accompanied

the house; fresh fruit, veggies, and fish that were delivered each day; much alcohol that was purchased and consumed; gorgeous beach for long walks or just viewing;  and whimsical décor including rock-painted bathtub.  What was not to love?  The adventure was too short but totally memorable even five years later.

 Swahili Island of Lamu

Kenya’s coast is along the Indian Ocean, where Arab and African cultures co-mingled to form what is known as Swahili culture, still prevalent in that area.  Of course the Swahili language is one of Kenya’s two official languages along with English.  In any case, off the coast, north of Mombasa, about 30 miles south of the Somalian coast, is the island of Lamu.  All water and food must be transported onto the island by boat (no airstrip) and once there, donkeys carry everything to its destination.  As of 2008, there were still only 3 mechanized vehicles on the island, including the mayor’s car, and only a couple of roads that could be driven.  The two towns are Shela and Lamu Town, both of which look like movie-sets for Arab market towns: narrow streets with stone walls; Arab looking African people; many women in all-black floor-length robes (some with veils); men in sarongs and knitted, white caps; small shops with men trying to entice visitors inside; and donkeys everywhere.  Lamu is what Zanzibar must have looked like 30 to 50 years ago before big resorts were built and Western honeymooners descended.

Rick and Wendy visited Lamu twice.  Once on their own in mid-2007 and once again in September 2008 to attend Anna and Greg’s wedding.  Both times they enjoyed the Dawa sailing boats (curved in bow and stern in Arab style), the beaches, the huge marine tortoises, and walking around both Shela and Lamu town.

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