African Hospitality #2 – Lamu Island, Kenya

In January we visited our daughter who lives in Nairobi, Kenya. We spent a week with her visiting the ancient coastal town of Lamu on the Indian Ocean.  We flew to the Manda airport, on a different island, then took a small motor boat to our hotel on Lamu Island. From the moment we stepped off the boat, yes into the water with bare feet and skirts held high, the young men wearing pink shirts (I can’t believe I didn’t get a photo of this) who worked at the Stop Over Hotel where we stayed, made us feel welcomed and cared for.

Our beds were decorated with creatively folded towels and scattered with fresh flowers. Beautiful, but covered in tiny ants – which were easily disposed of.

Break-fast was served on our third floor balcony each morning at the hour of our choice. I felt so pampered eating our fresh tropical fruit salads with the warm ocean breezes blowing, the sun brightly rising and a view of the fishermen mending nets and unloading dhows outside our hotel.

One day we did a walking tour of the town with its narrow streets, elaborately carved wooden doors, stone walls, mosques, and donkeys. There are no motor vehicles on the island, but donkeys are everywhere. They are used for transportation and as pack animals – rather smelly and dirty, I might add. With the fishing boats along the water’s edge, the donkeys and dusty paths, I half expected Jesus of Nazareth to show up and perform a miracle. It felt that ancient to me.

Since it’s a beach town, there is sand everywhere and our feet, even in sandals, were never clean. Many hotels and restaurants had small water troughs outside their doorways for people to dip their feet in and wash off the sand.  How clever and convenient. Vanessa is illustrating this custom in the photo on the left.

The trip brought back so many memories of family times on the East African coast of Kenya and Tananzia when we lived there in the 1990’s. The smells, the hot sun and warm night air, eating in open-air restaurants by the sea, Swahili foods (samosas, fanta and ginger pop, fresh fish, rice, ugali and chappatis) and the Swahili language, made it an exquisite combination of familiar memories and new experiences. The African hospitality was as warm and predictable as I’d remembered.

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