Monday, June 6, 2011

Lazy Days in Lamu

Lazy days in Lamu began with a call to worship. The many mosques on the small island rang their bells five times a day to remind the Muslim population of their responsibilities in prayer.  While I did not run off to join them, I still found the island community fascinating. Just two degrees south of the Equator, with a population pulling from Chinese shipwrecked survivors back in the 14th century, local Swahili people, Portuguese explorers, Turkish traders and Omani Arabs, there was a rich tapestry in the local history. It was reflected in the narrow streets, numerous markets, even more mosques and gently bobbing dhows that nestled in the harbor. Time seemed to stand still on this exotic island that begged one to slow down and stroll at its pace. As long as you watched for the donkey droppings underfoot.
In the mornings,  I sat on one of my two balconies and watched the world drift by with a book in hand. It was hard to believe that I was in the heart of Africa, as I gazed around at the culture that I was submerged in. Men would saunter along the narrow streets, kicking at the occasional donkey that refused to get out of the way. Chaste women seemed to disappear due to strict religious decrees of who they could be seen by. Their presence was noted though, in the laundry strung out to dry between the narrow alleys. The sounds and smells of locals going about their days, making chapatti, tea and crafts to sell to the many tourists that descended upon the tiny island for a taste of something exotic.
When I had enough of idling watching the world drift past, I would venture out to stroll through the narrow streets myself. I had never seen streets so small before. They were no more than 6-8 feet across, hence the lack of vehicles on the island. None were allowed, but for one solitary police car. It did little good really though, as there was nowhere that it could really go. When I got tired of wandering through the streets, I would find Ali Hippy, and sit and talk religion for hours over mango smoothies. He helped me to understand a little more of the Muslim ways of the island and I appreciated the time he spent with me.
One day Stuart and I even ventured so far as the beach. It was a long walk from our apartment, but the adventure was worth the 45-minute stroll. Of course coming home to a reliable source of running water and ample beds for the three of us, plus room for many more was a luxury that I did not experience often in my journey to date. The bugs were a bit overwhelming mind you, but for our 1050ksh for the week, it was still a good deal. I just had to remember to steal myself to the scurrying cockroaches, ants and spiders that scattered in all directions when the lights were turned on. Ugh. Better to go out for another mango smoothie or take in a seafood meal at a locals home. If we could look past the bugs and numerous donkeys that overtook the island, then it was indeed a tropical paradise very worthy of anyone’s time. 

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