Zanzibar and Lamu – Two Ancient on the East African Coastline

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Lamu and Zanzibar, two ancient towns on the coast of East Africa Historical Perspectives of East Africa Assignment Lecturer: Mr Bagaja Student Number: TTM-08-13 Student Name : Mutunga Katia Date Submitted: 23/ 10/ 2010 Lamu “The oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa “ World Heritage Site List Background The island of Lamu is situated on the north coast of Kenya. Lamu town is the largest town on Lamu Island, which in turn is a part of the Lamu Archipelago in Kenya. | It is currently populated by a variety of peoples including native Banjuni, Galla, Swahili, Arab and the most recent additions- Caucasians.

Lamu Old Town was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. As a listed site the Old Town is protected by international law from anything that could harm or destroy its unique structure. The inscription was completed for the following reasons:| | 1) The town’s buildings physically show us how important human interactions have come together over hundreds of years, to create a distinct culture. 2) The town is the best example of the growth and decline of East Africa’s seaports, and this significant stage of human history. 3) The town has an important religious function in the region.

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It continues to be a significant centre for education in Islamic and Swahili culture. Lamu’s exceptional architecture and welcoming people are testament to its long history of diverse cultural influence. The island of Lamu seems to have stopped in time and is stuck in the 14th century. This ‘Lost in Time’ island has a quaint charm and laid back way of life and is bound to lull every visitor into its slow rhythm. The town is once again prospering with an influx of new peoples from around the world, here to experience everything the Old Town has to offer. History

By the 14th Century, Lamu already existed as a rich trading city-state, exporting ivory, timber, amber and spices, while importing luxury goods such as porcelain and carpets from across the Indian Ocean There are ancient accounts that mention Chinese ships of Zheng He’s fleet sinking near Lamu Island in Kenya in 1415. Survivors are said to have settled in the island and married local women. Though there are contentions about the authenticity of this particular account it is proven that the Chinese were amongst the very first visitors of the East African coast.

The port of Lamu has existed for at least a thousand years. The town was first attested in writing by an Arab traveller Abu-al-Mahasini who met a Judge from Lamu visiting Mecca in 1441. The town’s history is marked by a Portuguese invasion which began in 1506, and the Omani domination around 1813 (the year of the Battle of Shela). The Portuguese invasion was prompted by the nation’s successful mission to control trade along the coast of the Indian Ocean. For considerable time, Portugal had a monopoly in shipping along the East African coast and imposed export taxes on the pre-existing local channels of commerce.

In the 1580s, Lamu led a rebellion against the Portuguese, prompted by Turkish raids. In 1652, Lamu was assisted by Oman in lifting Portuguese control. Lamu’s years as an Omani protectorate mark the town’s golden age. During this period, Lamu became a center of poetry, politics, arts and crafts as well as the trade. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the authority of the Sultan of Oman increased in the region and Lamu prospered. Lamu’s inhabitants and those of Oman built and rebuilt most of the traditional stone houses and mosques during this time.

However by the end of the 18th century Lamu was in decline as the main trading activities shifted to Mombasa. This was due to the large development of Mombasa port. During the 19th century disagreements with Pate lead to the construction of the Lamu Fort. The Fort was completed in 1821 with the help of the new Sultan of Oman. At this time Lamu was also once again acquiring substantial wealth, trading goods from mainland plantations with the Sultan of Oman, who lived in Zanzibar. Until the end of the 19th century the population of Lamu consisted of a large number of slaves.

With the abolishment of slavery in East Africa at the end of the 19th century, Lamu’s source of cheap labor was lost. It was in part because of this that Lamu Old Town once again fell into decline, becoming a minor, local harbor. However it was also this remoteness which allowed Lamu’s remarkable architecture, traditional values and ways of life to be preserved. Culture The stone town was founded in the 14th century and it contains many fine examples of Swahili architecture. Once a center for the slave trade, the population of Lamu is ethnically diverse.

Lamu was on the main Arabian trading routes, and as a result, the population is largely Muslim. The old town is known to the local people as Mkomani. It is the largest stone town on the East African coast, but easy to walk around. The town dates back to the 14th century although most of the buildings are actually from the 18th century which was Lamu’s Golden Age. The streets are very narrow, and the buildings on each side are two or three stories high. The main street, Usita wa Mui, runs parallel to the harbour and used to open out to the sea, but building form the mid 1800s onwards has cut it off from the quayside.

Local cuisine has been influenced by the culinary cultures of the different peoples who come to live on this island. Some of the local specialties include lobster, prawns and parrotfish The Riyadha Mosque is the centre for the Maulidi Festival, which are held every year during the last week of the month of the Prophet’s birth. During this festival pilgrims from Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Zanzibar and Tanzania join the locals to sing the praise of Mohammad. Architecture There are different examples of building types in early times. Like Lamu Fort whose construction was begun in 1809 and completed in 1821.

The tile awning over the verandah at the front was originally of makuti thatch. Inside internal walkways and awnings surround a central courtyard. The construction is of coral blocks, covered with mortar round the battlements. However Mosques are best preserved examples of different eras in this ancient coastal town. The oldest mosque in Lamu is believed to be the Pwani Mosque, situated near the Fort which dates back to 1370. The Jumaa Mosque is at the north end of town and is the second oldest in Lamu, dating from 1511. The M’na Lalo Mosque was built in 1753, more or less in the centre of town, Economy

Lamu’s economy was based on slave trade until abolition in the year 1907. Other traditional exports included ivory, mangrove, turtle shells and rhinoceros horn, which were shipped via the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and India. In addition to the abolition of slavery, construction of the Uganda Railroad in 1901 (which started from the competing port of Mombassa) significantly hampered Lamu’s economy. Tourism has gradually refuelled the local economy in recent times. Historical Attractions and potential touristic attractions Lamu Museum houses a library and is located on Kenyatta Road.

It is run by the National Museum of Kenya, and plays an important role in the conservation of old Lamu. The entrance has some photographs of Lamu taken by French Photographer, Guillain in the period 1846-9. Swahili House Museum is a traditional Swahili house, restored, with all the traditional furniture. The museum is open daily, 1800-1800, with a small entrance fee. House of Liwali Sud bin Hamad is a fine example of Swahili architecture. A Liwali was a governor appointed by the Sultan of Zanx Shela village is another of the old stone towns and is located to the south of Lamu Town.

It has the closest beach to Stone Town, being a 40 minute walk away. In the town are a number of old buildings, including the Mosque which is situated behind Peponi’s Dodori and Boni National Reserves. These are in the far north of the Kenya coast close to the Somali border. Because of the recent troubles in Somalia parts of this area have been out of bounds to tourists for a while. Manda Island. This is the island which is located just to the north of Lamu and has the airstrip on it. It is a popular day trip to see the ruins at Takwa.

The island is approximately the size of Lamu but has only a small permanent population due to a shortage of fresh water and of cultivatable land. The Takwa Ruins are those of an ancient Swahili town which is believed to have prospered from the 15th to the 17th centuries, with a population of between 2,000-3,000 people. Pate town. This is another neighbouring town to Lamu that has an ancient history. The earliest remains that have been found are from the 13th century but according to some accounts the town dates back to the eighth century. The town was reasonably prosperous for up to 1600, Northern crafts workshops.

At the northern end of the town, on the waterfront are wood-carving workshops and the proprietors will happily show you around. Further on you can see boats being built and repaired at the Dhow Boatyard. Excursions. There are plenty of willing dhow owners who organise one-day dhow fishing excursions in the Manda Channel. Snorkeling excursions depend on the times of the tide. The best place is Manda Toto, which is a two to three-hour dhow trip away. Beaches. The southern shore of Lamu island has the best beach – 12 kilometers of almost deserted white sand which back onto the sand dunes.

As there is no reef the waves are quite big. To get there you have to walk through the southern part of the town towards Shela which takes about 45 minutes to the beach. Dhows and motor boats go regularly to Shela for the less active. The beach at Shela stretches into the distance and is seldom crowded. Accessibility The best way to get to Lamu is by an hour’s flight from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport or from nearby Mombasa or Malindi. All aircraft land at Manda airstrip, which, from the main island, is a 30-minute boat ride across the harbor.

Buses to Lamu go fairly regularly but the route is popular so book in advance. The trip takes about 5 to 6 hours from Malindi Accommodation Accommodations on Lamu are relatively easy to locate. While you can get a room in many of the Lamu hotels and guesthouses without a reservation, the town’s most popular hotels have to be booked months in advance. Zanzibar “A beautiful island with beautiful people” Lonely Planet Background | Zanzibar is a part of the Eastern African Republic of Tanzania. It consists of the islands of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean 25-50 km from the coast of the mainland.

There are many small and two large islands: Unguja (the main island, unofficially known as “Zanzibar) and Pemba. The Zanzibar archipelago also includes numerous small islands off shore including Changuu (Prison Island), Bawi, Cahwani (Grave Island), Tumbatu, Mnemba, Chumbe and the sandbanks of Nyange, Pange and MurogoThe capital of Zanzibar, located on the island of Unguja, is Zanzibar City, and its historic center, known as Stone Town, is a World Heritage Site. The name comes from the Persian zang meaning “rust” (politically correct equivalent for “black”) and bar meaning “land”. |

The history of Zanzibar is one out of all proportion with her size. These small islands have in centuries past held sway over large parts of mainland Africa and the islands of the Indian Ocean, controlling trade routes from the continental interior to the markets of Arabia, India and farther abroad. Bantu, Egyptian, Arab, Portuguese and British have all taken possession of the territory and valued it as a ‘jewel in the crown’, both for its strategic position off the East Coast of Africa, pivotal to the rich trade in slaves, ivory, ebony and gold, and because of its fresh water, fertile soils and temperate climate.

History In this part of the world ancient history is poorly documented and it is not until 1107AD that we find our first firm date in the Zanzibar chronology. For earlier references we must rely on inscriptions in Egyptian temples, Greek and Phoenician navigation manuals and legends to tell our story. The first reference comes from the temple walls of Egypt, which tell of Pharaohs sending expeditions down the African coast to the Land of Punt, returning loaded to the gun walls with ivory, slaves, gold and animals like of which had never before been seen.

After the Egyptians stopped visiting around 1200BC, Zanzibar again disappeared from the maps. Nearly a 1000 years passed before the Phoenicians again started to sail around Africa, but it was not until the the second century AD that Arab to re-initiated trade in the region. Subsequent records on Zanzibar are concentrated on three periods in which these islands were ruled by Arabs and the Portguese. The first arab period (c200AD to 1499) especially after the 7th. century, the great Moslem expansion got underway.

The Chronicle of Kilwa, which tells of a Persian merchant and his six sons, who set sail in seven ships to cross the Indian Ocean and settle the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Their base on Zanzibar is thought to been Kizimkazi, whose ancient mosque provides the first firm date in our history – 1107AD. For 500 years the Persians and Arabs developed their city states and created a huge extension to the vast trade network of the Indian Ocean, trading with the tribes of the coast for ivory and slaves and shipping goods as far abroad as China.

Much of the build-up of social institutions and political organizations happened during this period where local rulers exerted control of some settlements along the coast. The process led to the formation of independent Muslim sultanates in Zanzibar and Kilwa with mixed Persian, Arab and African populations. The Portuguese period (1499 to 1698). For centuries the Silk Road across central Asia was to transport spices and other luxuries to Europe, but as the Arabs came to dominate this region, so they exacted higher and higher levies on the caravans.

Eventually the Portuguese determined to put a stop to this by finding a sea route to the East. Armed with the rediscovered ancient Phoenician maps, Vasco da Gama set out in 1498 around Africa. When the Portuguese arrived in the Indian Ocean they were astounded by the extent of the civilsation encountered. Their ships were nothing compared to the magnificent Arab vessels and they were regarded very much as second rate by the Sultans they encountered. Nevertheless, they managed to take advantage of local rivalries to gain assistance and passed on to India before returning home.

Reports of great wealth of the region got the Portugueses attention and soon 100’s of ships were setting out to round the Cape. For 200 years the Portuguese held sway in Zanzibar, but eventually their huge empire became unmanageable. They were too thinly spread and when the Arabs finally made their attempt to retake the East Coast of Africa, they managed it and by 1698 had re-established complete control. This period of Portuguese rule is marked by the decline of the Zanzibar islands economically and culturally The second arab period (1698 to 1890).

The previous arabic trade patterns were re-established and city states rebuilt. Over the centuries the Busaid dynasty came to take control in Zanzibar and gradually they managed to increase the importance of Zanzibar as a trading entrepot until it became the dominant state in the region. The arrival on the scene of the great Busaid Sultan Said around 1800 that really ushered inthe boom years for Zanzibar. Up until then, the island had been considered as an overseas possession of the Sultans of Oman, but Said saw the potential and over the first ten years of his reign worked intensively at increasing trade in Zanzibar.

Said pushed slave caravans deeper into the mainland than ever before, inviting Indian financiers to Zanzibar in order to fund the operations and creating a mainland empire that covered the majority of Southern Africa. He ordered all the landowners in to plant clove trees or their land would be confiscated, thus developing a hugely lucrative trade that became responsible for three quarters of world production. Then in 1811, at a time when the world was turning against the trade, he opened the Great Slave Market in Zanzibar.

In 1840 he relocated his capital from Oman to Zanzibar and for the next 16 years until his death Zanzibar boomed. After his death, however, things started to go wrong for the Busaid family. The British, who were by now extremely influentual, wanted the slave market closed. Power started to slowly slip from the hands of the Sultan and the British were forced to impose a Protectorate, not least to ensure the island didn’t fall into the hands of other European powers. Culture Zanzibar is largely influenced by Swahili and Arab culture with several cultural practices being derived from Islam.

The best example of this creative blending of traditions is taarab music, the national sound of Zanzibar. Taarab music has flourished since the first decades of the 20th century, becoming the region’s first mass mediated music. Drawing in influences from the Arab world, India, Indonesia and the West, taarab blended these with the classical traditions of Swahili poetry, local rhythm and melody. locals may take offence to scantily dressed foreigners. Public affection and open anger are considered disrespectful. In Zanzibar, it is important for women to dress modestly out of respect for Muslim cultural beliefs.

Politeness, respect and modesty are highly valued The Mwaka Kogwa takes place around the 23rd or 24th of July it is the celebration of the Shirazi or Persian new year. It is a flamboyant demonstration of Zanzibar passion and style, with the biggest single event being held at Makunduchi in Southern Unguja. As well as the chaos of dancing, singing and drumming, the festival includes some ancient rituals:a mock fight, in which the men beat each other with banana stems in an effort to vent any ill-feelings or frustrations built up over the year.

While the men fight, the women parade around in their best finery, singing of love, family and happiness. Next there is the ritual burning of a hut. A local Mganga (witchdoctor) sets the fire and the assembled crowd watch intently to see which way the smoke will go in order to determine the the fortunes for the year ahead. After this a huge feast is held, where all visitors are welcomed – in fact it is said to bring bad fortune on any villager who does not have at least one guest. Once everybody has eaten and drunk their fill, the music begins.

One of the few obvious signs of the Portuguese presence on these islands is the Pemba Bull Fight. This version of the Iberian tradition is far removed from those of Seville or Madrid. In Pemba the affair is far more light-hearted and spontaneous with unarmed matadors being chased by specially trained bulls, to the sound of the tandaa clarinet. Of the Moslem festivals, the Idd-el-Fitry is the most important, marking the end of Ramadan, the Moslem month of fasting. Other Moslem celebrations include the Idd-el Haj, elebrating the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and Maulid, which commemorates the birth of Muhammad. Traditional weddings are passionate and colourful affairs. Most of the dancing is done by the women, often attired in heavily frilled dresses, who perform traditional dances such as beni, unyago, bomu and lelemama, some of which take place in separate ceremonies to which the men are not allowed to join. Economy Because of its political dominance, Zanzibar managed to build a strong economy and, at those days, the name was decorated with many superlatives and history making achievements.

It was the first in the region to have railways in 1879. The economy was initially dominated by trade of ivory and slaves but when the trade in human cargo was limited in the early years of the 19th century, Zanzibar retained a large proportion of slaves to work in clove and coconut plantations. Therefore, cloves and copra became the leading commodities for Zanzibar and hence agriculture has been, and is still now, the anchor of its economy. It is now largely dependent on tourism to bolster the volatile spice trade fluctuations

Historical Attractions and potential touristic attractions Zanzibar International Film Festival- Z. I. F. also known as the Festival of the Dhow Countries. It is a cultural extravaganza of cinema,music and arts from all over Africa, the Gulf States, Iran, India, Pakistan and islands of the Indian Ocean. The next event takes place in Zanzibar from 28th June – 13th July. 02 and will feature around a hundred films, with awards forthe best feature films and documentaries. It is very popular National Museum (Peace Memorial Museum).

Home to a wealth of Zanzibar’s memorabilia, the National Museum is a great place to discover the intriguing history and culture of the islands. With exhibits including traditional carvings and local wildlife displays covering reptiles and birds, visitors can also view relics from the past Northern Beaches. There are many superb white beaches, warm waters and picturesque villages around Zanzibar ideal for those wanting to get away from the bustling town life, particularly along the northern east coast. Modestly veiled women make bright splashes of colour along white sandy stretches of sun kissed beaches Old Fort.

Built at the turn of the 17th century on the remains of a Portuguese church and crumbling Arab garrison, the burly Old Fort was constructed to fend off the enterprising Portuguese seafarers and Mazrui Arabs of Mombassa keen to gain power of the region Palace Museum. Illuminating the lifestyle of the Sultan legacy in Zanzibar, the Palace Museum, (originally called the Sultan’s Palace), became the official residence of the Al Busid dynasty in 1911. Built in the 1890s the extensive white building situated on harbour road with breathtaking sea views. Anglican Cathedral and Slave Market.

The colossal Anglican Cathedral in Stone Town is located on the grounds of the islands largest slave market, which closed down in 1873. The cathedral’s altar stands on the exact location of the former whipping post, a tree where slaves were brutalised to death House of Wonders (Beit el-Ajaib). The first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and the first building in East Africa to have an elevator, Beit el-Ajaib (which translates into the House of Wonders) was the former ceremonial palace of Sultan Barghash and was built in 1883 on the Island Central Market.

A vibrant array of colours and spicy scents lure visitors to the animated Central Market in Stone Town. Opened in 1904 as the Seyyidieh Market the myriad stalls run over with tropical fruits, exotic spices, brightly coloured khangas (worn by local women) and rare ornaments from the entire coastline of East Africa Accessibility The best way to get to Zanzibar is by air, You can also access the island by ferry or dhow from the mainland. Transportation on the island is via vehicles although water transport is the only means of travelling from one island to the other on the archipelago Accommodation

Zanzibar has several hotels of varying caliber . Visitors should note that accommodation on the Islan is very pricey compared to those found on the Kenyan coast. While you can get a room in many of the Zanzibar hotels and guesthouses without a reservation, the town’s most popular hotels have to be booked months in advance. References Sir Richard Francis Burton: Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast Michler, Ian : Zanzibar: the insider’s guide Giles, Foden : Zanzibar Romero, Patricia W. Lamu: history, society, and family in an East African port city. Beckwith, Carol and Fisher, Angela, Text: Hancock, Graham: “African Ark, People and Ancient Cultures of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, Prins, A. H. J. : Sailing from Lamu: A Study of Maritime Culture in Islamic East Africa Internet Sources http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki http://www. wordtravels. com/Cities/Tanzania/Zanzibar/Attractions http://www. zanzinet. org/zanzibar/visiwa. html http://www. zanzibar. org/ Maps @ Lonely Planet

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