Tag Archives: Ali Lamu

Welcome Home. Shela, Lamu Island

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We arrive to Jaha House, our home for the week, in Shela. Greeted with fresh juice as gentleman carry in our bags. To the right of the entry way is our pool, much-needed and often used to cool off in the 90 degree heat. Let’s do that. Get in the pool and enjoyed a couple of bottles of white wine to settle in.  There are small shelves/windows with the intention of storing treasures from your journey. These shelves are filled with sea shells. The house is completely open. Some windows with no covering. This is strategic in design to catch the wind and keep certain areas cool throughout the house.  Dinner is served, a wonderful welcoming meal somewhat familiar served around coconut rice, similar to a meal I prepare at home with shrimp, mango, papaya, garlic and ginger…kitamu (tasty)! Our meal tonight included fresh grilled tuna, a tomato based ratatouille, carrot salad, mango and roasted pumpkin. Absolutely wonderful. After dinner we head to one of the few places that serves alcohol on this side of the island, Peponi (paradise).  A full bar though. We get introduced to some of the locals, we spend time with throughout the week. Everyone is extremely welcoming.

We wake in the mornings to eggs prepared how we individually request them, toast and the most delicious butter spread, tea and a fruit plate usually including mango, papaya, banana and passion fruit. And always a freshly squeezed juice to drink. Our chef for the week, Evance, did a tremendous job.

Take in several sunset sails. One evening we were preparing to head to the dhow and a gentleman approaches our home selling oysters. At $6 for a dozen, I oblige. He breaks the shell in front of the house and our chefs prepare a plate of salt, lime and tabasco. An additional treat on the dhow in addition to samosas and wine.

Enjoyed shopping at Ali Lamu. An artist collective that formed in 2008 around making art out of old dhow sails. Items range from bags to pillows, wall art, notebooks and more. Local women contribute with the sewing and local fisherman paint on this canvas. The sale of these goods provides supplemental income for the fisherman during the low tourist season.

On a days adventure alone, I talk with locals at Peponi talking about the days catch and another one talking about the institution of marriage. Then I sit  to read The Alchemist and enjoy a cocoa dusted cappuccino served at Peponi. I take in a swim in the ocean. When I am laying out to dry off a family of vacationers from Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, make conversation with me. They comment on my red, curly hair. One of the teenage daughter’s asked to take a photo with me. I’m in for a couple of photos and have a Facebook friend request awaiting me on my return home. I had been asking around to find anyone who may make beer at home. I didn’t find beer but I did have someone take me on a hike into the dunes to try palm wine. Fermented sap from palm trees. I was served in a traditional pint glass. The locals were served in reused jelly jars with a wooden straw with a tiny wrapped filter on the bottom to keep from getting sediment. We visit a local in his home on our return back to Shela. The center of his home is a tree, the walls made of palm leaves. The center tree seems to be housing all of the home owners most prized possessions. The view from his home is spectacular. I finish my day alone by sitting on the top of Jaha house at a beautiful desk overlooking through palm trees, the dhows sailing during sunset. And the sound of the call to prayer sounds beautiful and historic.  When the girls get back, there is a beach party to attend.

Lamu is a magical place. I never would have imagined a beach vacation as something I desired. I am a pretty fast-paced person. The people of Lamu are incredibly open-hearted and welcoming. On my second visit I was greeted with, “Welcome home.” From what I hear, when anyone visits this place, we leave a little bit of ourselves behind. To be revisited again and again. This is a very happy place and you’d be surprised at how fast the day fills itself with local activities: dhow trips, fresh seafood, wedding celebrations, birthdays, backgammon or simply reading under happy tree.

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“Tonight, we eat calamari for sure” Manda Island, Kenya

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We visit Manda Island a couple of times during our time in Lamu. New homes have been built on the island within the past 10 years. Although, no water system. Water is transported from Lamu to Manda in huge barrels. Quite expensive. On our first visit we check out Lamu House Beach Club for lunch and a swim in the ocean. It’s amazing. The mirror replica of Robert Indiana‘s LOVE sculpture catches my attention as I affirm that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. Based on what is behind the bar, it seems that Gin is their specialty. I order a Negroni prepared by our bartender for the afternoon, Chai. I enjoyed watching him prepare the drink. Taking a bar towel full of ice, wrapped with his fist and beating it with something like a stick used to muddle lime, sugar and mint for a mojito. We went for a swim in the ocean while our meal was being prepared. We meet a fisherman on the beach who caught some octopus that day. How appropriate as we planned to enjoy grilled calamari for lunch. It was delicious and fresh served with a lovely salad and buttered potato. Simple and wonderfully delicious.

On another lunch trip we visit The Majlis Restaurant for rum cocktails (The Jack Sparrow, Caipirinha and Zombie, yes, Zombie) and grilled pizza and a swim. The place is absolutely beautiful with its tribute to Lamu’s traditional architecture and design. The interior was full of massive sized sculptures, artwork and photographs. Amazing rugs and plenty of low sitting seating areas. No junk, No knickknacks. This place is THE spot for New Year’s Eve, and weddings of course. I made a little joke to the girls that the birds were chirping, “rafiki, rafiki, rafiki.” Three syllables to each chirp. We manage to see the Governor, again! This time with a different group of people including a woman dressed in her traditional abaya and a white baseball cap to protect her from the sun. She seemed to be a politician so I asked the gentleman down the way on the beach and they confirmed. I didn’t catch her name. One of the woman I was with had commented that she didn’t get any assistance down the steps or into the boat. I like that she was treated as more of an equal to the men.

There’s a gentleman in town who own’s a home on the island that is celebrating his 40th birthday. He has about 20-30 of his friends fly in and of course everyone on the island is invited to lunch at his home. Traditional Swahili beef pilau (rice with potato, tomato, cabbage and a great spread of spices) is being served with Tusker brews and a taarab band from Nairobi is providing entertainment. The dish is delicious and can’t wait to try to make it.

The next evening is another part of the celebratory weekend, moving down to Diamond Beach Village. Another beach bar with a cement dance floor. Discover that they make really great oven fired pizza’s as well, but I already ate. Simply relax and dance the night away.