Kenya-Lamu Old Town

  • Topic: 1000 to 2000 BP
  • Country: Kenya
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

Lamu Old Town is the oldest and well preserved Swahili Settlement in East Africa and has managed to preserve evidence showing all the functions that occurred in the settlement. The settlement was built with coral stone and mangrove timber around the 1200s but the Swahili people inhabited the area much earlier. The architecture and urban structure shows that the culture of Lamu Old Town was influenced by Europeans, Arabs and Indians with over 400 houses discovered serving as testament to the size of the town and to some extent its population. Lamu Old Town’s culture shows some similar factors with the Bantu, Arabs, Persians, Indians and Europeans suggesting that they all had an influence on the Swahili culture. The Town flourished due to external trade via the East African coast and in 1506 it was invaded by the Portuguese who monopolized shipping and suppressed coastal trade. This led to the prosperous city state to lose its position in trade and gradually decline from the declining trade. The town gained prosperity again under the Omani due to the increase in skilled labour force and slave labours. In 1890 the entire coastal strip north of Zanzibar was assigned to the Imperial British East Africa Company. The British administration then established Kenya into Provinces in 1895 and in 1963 Kenya became known as the Independent State of Kenya.

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