Cher and I really enjoy celebrating our love and after 40 years we took off to the Kenya coast for a holiday with family and then a week alone on Lamu Island…if you can be alone in a town. It was fabulous from the boat ride over to the ride back in a boat right out of The African Queen. One of the things we have learned from years of watching people come out to Africa and traveling from game park to game park is that you can spend all your time traveling and not too much of it resting and really seeing what is there. So we have taken to going one place at a time and being there long enough to really absorb it. And Lamu is a great place to absorb! It is an old city for Africa and steeped in history.
It was built before cars and the streets are too narrow for even one, so donkeys are the transport through the narrow passages. We stayed behind the old Arab fort in beautiful Subira House, owned by a Swedish couple, Christina and Paul, who have made it a continuing piece of the history of the island. The former home of the governor it has been renovated in the Swahili style to perfection.
We were on the top floor where the verandah gave us a lovely view of the old fort and the ocean and one of the main little streets in town where men gathered in the late afternoons to play drafts, donkeys carried woven basket loads of sand and cement to a building project and the fruit and vegetable market bustled. We had been told that it was dirty in
the city and you might have to dodge the odd pile of donkey droppings, but the culture was fascinating to us and we loved being submerged in it. The streets are edged with straight walls that usually go at least 2-3 stories straight up giving you the impression that you are in a deep valley or almost like a cave sometimes. But the doors are magnificently carved and I spent much of my time taking pictures of them. When you walk though them to the inside there is usually a greeting area and then a courtyard opened to the sky. Plants and climbing vines give a clean and airy feeling and inside is where everything is to one’s personal taste and under his control.
We ate sea food and, as this is a very Muslim area, there was juice instead of alcohol. We enjoyed fresh mango and lime and tamarind juices and there were too many choices that kept us amazed and refreshed.
We walked the town streets, shops, and markets just looking and talking to people who, to a man, told us “Karibu…”, we were welcome there and they were happy we came. We felt almost protected by the whole population. Of course, there are people who offer you boat rides and donkey rides and other entertainment but most people just wanted to say we were welcome there and we really felt it.
We took a dhow sailing one afternoon with Captain Bubu and his two young grandkids, both named Mohammed, and nephew, Achmed. I had asked Captain Bubu to teach me how to sail his dhow and he gladly obliged. My Stetson hat blew off as I was steering across a stiff wind and, before I could open my mouth, Achmed made a beautiful dive into the ocean and retrieved the hat, using it as a scoop to help him get it back to the dhow that was quickly leaving him behind.
I swung the boat around to dump the wind from the sail and let him catch us up. We sailed along the mangroves full of bee eaters and other lovely birds at “magic hour”. That time when the light is just perfect for photos. Then we turned back toward Lamu Island just as the sun started to set and we enjoyed sailing through a liquid sunset back to the old city.
We were sitting in the Moonrise Restaurant having our last seafood lunch before we left and said to each other that this had truly been a perfect time for us. Rest, relaxation, great food, interesting culture, and each other. How do you beat that? It just keeps getting better all the time. Thank you, Cher, for a great life together.