All inclusive beach holidays in Lamu, Kenya
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    Kisimani House Lamu Island Kenya & Lamu Self Catering Cottages, villa, hotels

    Kisimani House was originally built in the late 18th Century for the Caliph of Zanzibar when Lamu was in its Golden Age. As you step through the beautiful carved Lamu doors set in the traditional Lamu baraza entrance and down into the sunken courtyard you travel back in time, shades of Arabian nights. The ground floor is the historical part of the house. Here there is a double bedroom in the original harem quarters, carved Zidaka niches and courtyard garden. Kisimani House is located on the seaward fringe of Shela village and a five minute walk from the beach. Kisimani in Swahili means ‘the House of the Well’ and to this day relies on its own source of artesian water. Originally built in the days of the Caliphate, Kisimani House is the only surviving example of ancient Swahili architecture in Shela. Complete with massive stone walls, carved archways and central courtyards that open up to the big, blue sky. The ancients knew what they were doing of course, creating an inner source of light, shade, air and privacy throughout the interior. This sense of space continues on up through all four levels of the house with each level comprising a self-contained double en-suite and private terrace area.


    Kisimani House remains a residence fit for a Sultan, and is undoubtedly the oldest and most authentic traditional Swahili mansion house still remaining in Shela Village. It is a place of great majesty, comfort and charm – with spacious and adaptable bedroom suites on every floor and glorious views across much of the archipelago from its several large roof terraces and verandahs. To step through the beautiful carved doors set in the traditional daka entrance porch and down into the large sunken courtyard is to step back in time to the late 18th century – when Kisimani House was first built for its noble Arab owner. The palatial ground floor of the house remains unchanged in centuries – huge alcoves house comfortable antique four-poster beds laden with colourful cushions, and showcase carved plasterwork in stylized casa turtle and nyota star designs. In the original harem quarters, complete with a wall of zidaka niches and carved plasterwork door friezes, there is a large double bedroom and ensuite bathroom of traditional Swahili design. The Ground floor also has huge storeroom and staff bedroom, further bathroom and walled courtyard garden. Take the stairs up to the first floor, still part of the original house - on this level there is a large double bedroom suite with bathroom, annex and two further single beds - ideal for children sharing with parents. This floor also houses the lovely, large and shady dining terrace, covered in pink bougainvillea and with plenty of comfortable built-in baraza seating areas. Also on the first floor is the spacious kitchen, charming study area, an occasional bedroom, bathroom and a store room. On the second floor - the Arusi level – there is a spacious ‘honeymoon’ suite (Arusi means wedding in Kiswahili) with large double bed with romantic tented mosquito net, two single beds, bathroom and an attractive terrace with fabulous views across the village roofs, treetops and seafront. On the third floor Takwa level (named after the atmospheric ruined town on nearby Manda Island), there is a double ensuite bedroom, large private makuti-covered terrace with dining area, huge comfortable wooden sofas and beautiful views of the sea.


    A lovely open staircase then proceeds up to the fourth floor ‘Crow’s Nest’ baraza with stunning, far-reaching vistas right across the archipelago – a wonderful place from which to star gaze at Lamu’s beautiful night sky. Kisimani has been carefully restored, extended and very well maintained by its present owners. It is beautifully decorated in eclectic Arab Swahili style, filled with attractive antique furniture and fixtures, historic carved doors and interesting decorative objects, many of which are now hard to come by, and which are included in the sale. Kisimani means ‘beside the well’ in Kiswahili, and there is a plentiful supply of fresh water from the house’s own deep well in its courtyard garden. The house comes with an excellent cook and a house steward/butler. From the kitchen Karissa the Chef emerges with seafood and meals as fresh as you have ever tasted. He will prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner; either unguided or to your specific preferences,


    Fred Kahindi is your discrete butler. He brings you tea in the morning, sees to the beds, the laundry, the shopping, fixes drinks and lowers the nets before bedtime. Both speak good English. Let Karissa know of dietary preferences and give him enough cash to shop for your group. They record all household expenses in a ledger, which gets presented before you leave or when funds run low. In this way you get to eat what you like at the local cost price. Beers and sodas are locally available. Bring your own spirits, wines, cheeses & bacon as these are not available in the village. Generally, the entire house is exclusively booked by a family or group of friends. When the house is not occupied individual rooms may be rented along with the use of common terraces. This is more economical if you do not need all the rooms and do not mind perhaps sharing a breakfast with others (this is a bed & breakfast option only). There are several good places nearby for lunches and dinner. Bookings for the entire house are only confirmed on receipt of a 50% deposit. The balance must be paid 14 days prior to occupancy. Rooms may be booked one week in advance (as above), or rented on a ‘walk-in, space- available basis’. The staff will then make the payment arrangements. We offer a Swahili Breakfast of tea/coffee, fresh fruit & Mandazi's. However, if you'd prefer the whole cooked affair (poached eggs, grilled tomatoes, pancakes etc.) that can be ordered the day before at an extra cost We have a dazzling array of Lunch and Dinner options for you to drool over too: Whole baked snapper, Coconut rice, Swahili seafood platters, ginger crabs ... you will not go hungry! Getting to Kisimani House by Air. Daily direct flights from/to JKIA (International) airport on Fly540, Daily direct flights from Wilson (local) airport on Air Kenya or Safarilink scheduled charter. Flight time is around 1hour 20 minutes. All flights land on Manda Island opposite Lamu.


    A 30 minute boat ride will then take you to Shela (where you will be welcomed by Fred and taken on a 5 minute walk to the house) Please advise us of your flight when booking the house, so that Fred may check that the Peponi dhow (appx $3 per head) will be there to meet the flight. Or to arrange alternative boat transfer if not. Return flights (Nbi-Lmu) are presently (2013) all around $360 p/p. There are no currently scheduled flights to Lamu from either Mombasa or Malindi. BY BUS. For the intrepid over Lander there are public buses that (for a few dollars) take you from Nairobi to Mombasa (overnight) another bus that goes from Mombasa to Malindi (4 Hours) and a further one from Malindi to Mokowe -the mainland opposite Lamu (7 hours). This is a fascinating, inexpensive, but long and terrifying experience if you are not accustomed to public transport in Africa. BY CAR (4wd only!) is also possible, but you may have to replace it afterwards and you won’t need it when you get there. The road north from Malindi via Garsen to Mokowe jetty is wild, spectacular and rough. During the rains it can become impassable. Beach wedding is definitely the most fascinating way of tying the knot with your loved one. Although Lamu Island remains as ancient as ever, the coolness that characterize the beaches and waters of the island have transformed it to one of the best romantic destinations in Kenya. Kisimani House is one of the accommodation jewels in Lamu which hosts stylish romantic weddings and honeymoon to both local and foreign couples.


    The beachside accommodation and entertainment house is a renovated fortress that has been partitioned to different spacious en-suite bedrooms elegantly furnished with stylish Swahili Antiques. Meals consisting of international cuisines are served at the living room and terrace on the ground floor. Guests to Kisimani House are treated to fun activities such as goggling, swimming, fishing and boat rides to the deep seas. The one particular outstanding aspect of the Kisimani House is its ancient surroundings that provide a journey to the old grand days when the surface of the earth was void of cars and other modern facilities. The high privacy levels at Kisimani House provide the best romantic environment for honeymoons and short vacations.


    Lamu Island Information


    The saying goes that no-one comes to Lamu just for the beaches. We agree, while the beaches are incredible, one must never forget; the coral reefs, deep sea fishing, luxurious accommodation and fine cuisine. In addition there is the cultural side of things; the area is dotted with historical sights such as Fort Lamu, built from coral and many Swahili ruins. And who can forget the dhow, the traditional mode of travel between the islands and the donkey, the traditional mode of travel on the islands. Lamu is one of the great centers of Swahili culture and history and a place like no other. For the travelers on holidays to Lamu is a hypnotically exotic experience, made even more enjoyable by the relaxed and welcoming attitudes of the locals. It is a very relaxed and relaxing place where its easy going lifestyle has long attracted those seeking an alternative and exotic lifestyle. Life here is lived at its own relaxed rhythm. To visit Lamu is to enter another world, and the visitor finds themselves becoming a part of this world. Life slows down, and long days are spent strolling along the waterfront, exploring the town or relaxing on the beaches. Please beware that a Holiday in Lamu is a romantic experience that can become a lifelong affair. Lamu was established in the 14th century and its Old Town is a declared World Heritage site. The labyrinthine streets of Lamu town itself are a historical attraction in themselves. These narrow streets are all built upwards along a gentle slope, letting the rains wash the town clean. There are no vehicles on the Lamu Island and the donkey and the dhow remain the dominant form of transport. The Lamu Island itself is a beautiful place of rolling dunes and endless beaches, where tiny villages nestle among coconut and mango plantations and lateen sailed dhows ply the waters. For thousands of years, merchants from India, the Eastern Mediterranean, Arabia and the Persian Gulf set up trading posts along the East African Coast, shipping gold, animal skins, elephant tusks, rhino horn, ambergris, fruits, salt and human cargoes of slaves and concubines. Payment was usually made in the form of bartering cotton cloth, silks, axes, knives, wheat, rice, and glass. Fine porcelain from China was also exchanged.


    These merchant traders eventually began to settle along the coastal strip and widespread intermarriage took place with the African inhabitants who had created the original coastal settlements. The people of the coastal strip became known as the Swahili People, because although they lacked a common heritage, a Bantu based language known as Kiswahili evolved as the means of communication between people of African, Arab, Persian, Portuguese and English origin, who at various times colonized the East African coast. Swahili is derived from the word sahils-awahils, the Arabic word for edge or coast. Over time powerful dynasties evolved and became established along the coast from Lamu Island to Zanzibar. The Great Omani Dynasty and the Mazrui Clan were particularly prominent and played a major part in the formation of the Swahili culture. The oldest known settlement on the Kenyan coast is at Shanga on Pate Island dates back to the 9th Century. By the 13th Century the Nabhani, a dispossessed group of Omani rulers had laid claim to Pate and were trading with Persia and visitors from even further afield. The presence of Chinese artifacts from wrecked exploration vessels and the occurrence of such oddities as noodle making presses in the Swahili culture puts the Chinese in the archipelago as early as the mid 1400's. In 1505 the King of Lamu agreed to pay the Portuguese for protection from the Nabhani and for the next 180 years the island was under Portuguese control until they were themselves driven out by the Omanis. Lamu then became a republic ruled over by an installed 'yumbe' council of elders. For the next 150 years, the island prospered in all respects, creating its own architectural style. The town is famous for its amazing architecture and stone houses with exquisite carved lintels and doors that still stand to this day, keeping the original town plan intact. Lamu became the leading centre for trade on the East African Coast, with a busy port, exporting ivory, tortoise, shell timber, mangrove logs and thousands of slaves, who were transported to the Persian Gulf and Arabia, as well as to countries in Europe and India.


    Lamu Fort was built for the Omanis in about 1812 but not completed until 1821. From 1910 until 1984, it was used as a prison. Such was the success of the rulers that they even defeated the ruler of the neighbouring island of Pate at the Battle of Shela in 1812, when he tried to take Lamu Island with help from the Mazrui family in Mombasa. The victory was short lived because the yumbe panicked and requested help from Seyyid Said, the Sultan of Oman who happily sent a garrison to occupy Lamu, then go on to defeat the Mazrui clan in Mombasa and take control of the East African Coast, moving his headquarters from Oman to Zanzibar. In 1873, the British forced Sultan Barghash of Zanzibar to close down all the slave markets and with the abolition of slavery, Lamu's economy went into decline. It only began to recover in the early 1960's when the gentler invasion of tourism first came to the island. Every year in November, to mark the birth of Muhammad, Lamu celebrates with a week long Festival that draws in pilgrims from all over East Africa and the Indian Ocean and where the entire town is involved in processions and dances.


    There is another major religious festival in the Swahili year called Maulidi which has been celebrated in Lamu since 1866. Besides the religious aspects of the celebration it is notable for traditional dance and music as well as the more contemporary carnival activities (Dhow and donkey races, competitions etc.) From a tourist perspective, a walk around Lamu Town is a truly memorable experience. There are so many traditional Swahili homes to be seen and over recent years there has been a massive revival in Lamu woodcarving. The town has a couple of the most interesting small museums in Kenya with a well documented nautical section. Lamu is also famous for its citrus and tropical fruit farms that produce the sweet juicy grapefruit and the giant aromatic mango. A rebuilt produce market in front of the fort has a huge array of fresh fruit, fish and shellfish. There is also a crab and lobster market close by. Lamu Town was designated a World Heritage Site in 2001 by UNESCO based on several criteria including architecture and multicultural Swahili pedigree of Indian, Arab, Chinese and European influences. Lamu Old Town is the oldest surviving Swahili settlement in East Africa. The hotel Accommodation in Lamu is varied and range from modern hotels, beautifully decorated old Swahili Lamu guesthouses, basic inns, isolated Lamu resorts and private homes to rent. There is an excellent Museum in Lamu town with good exhibits on Swahili culture in general and Lamu culture in particular. The staff are very helpful and have a wealth of local information. Other attractions include Shela beach as well as the neighboring islands of Manda and Pate. Both Lamu town and the village of Shela are home to many fine examples of Swahili architecture. Some of the original mansions have been restored and are maintained by the National Museums of Kenya. On nearby Manda Island are found the ruins of Takwa, a civilization razed in the 17th Century. These ruins, now overgrown and overshadowed by baobab trees, show that Takwa was a holy city, where all doors faced Mecca. Some residents of Shela, who believe themselves to be descendants of Takwa, still visit the ruins to pray. Takwa can be reached by dhow from either Lamu or Shela. Upon request, we can arrange to visit a home in Lamu to meet a local family, and spend some time in a traditional Swahili home. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience life as it is lived within the walls of the island's famous historical houses.


    The families you visit with will be happy to explain to you the traditions and daily routines of life in Lamu. You may help out the children with their school work, visit the mosque, or assist with the preparation of food. Often these visits involve taking a traditional Swahili meal with the family. This is the best way to sample this unique cuisine, and discover the best cooking on the coast. One of the best times to visit Lamu is during the Maulidi festival. This annual Islamic festival celebrates the birth of the prophet, and on Lamu is cause for great celebration indeed. A week long festival of music and dance is held, with traditional sword fights in public squares and Swahili feasts. Book well ahead to make sure you find a room during this festival. There is also the annual Lamu Cultural Festival.


    Lamu Holiday Activities


    The biggest activity in Lamu Island is relaxation. When you tire of this most lodges and guest house offer in-house massage, take a sunset dhow cruise or visit the other islands in the area. Enjoy a variety of water sports including wind surfing, kite surfing bodysurfing sailing and water sking. Take long walks along deserted beaches with sightings of dolphins offshore. Discover the islands history at the Lamu Museum or old fort.


    The pristine beaches are not the only attraction to Lamu. Lamu Town is a delightful anachronism carrying on its daily life as it has done for centuries. As Kenya's oldest living town, Lamu has retained all the charm and character built up over centuries. There are still many remnants of the elegant, refined life led by the richer folk in past eras.


    Electricity only arrived a few decades ago, and there are still almost no motor vehicles. Life moves at a pace of a donkey or a dhow. Spices and the smell of grilled food scent the air around the markets, museums, fort and ancient house. The winding streets of the towns are best explored on foot or by donkey, as you shop for local woodcarvings and batik. Alternatively, you can sit at an open-air restaurant by the water and watch the world go by, as an irresistible past-time. Shela is the other main town on Lamu Island, and is a 10 minute boat ride from Lamu. Although it lacks the vibrancy of Lamu Town, it is smaller, quieter and more elegant than Lamu - distinctively more up market. Manda Island itself is also fascinating. The huge baobab trees dominate the skyline and the ruins of Takwa can be found after negotiating through thick mangrove swamps. The Beaches of the Lamu archipelago are believed to be amongst the best in Kenya


    Lamu Hotels & Holiday Packages information


    Those who love to bask in the sun enjoy bathing in the blue waters of the ocean, like to walk on the fine white sand and build sandcastles often choose to visit Lamu Island, a part of the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya. The Lamu old town is a popular destination for the visitors who want to see the oldest and the best-preserved Swahili settlements. The Lamu Cottages and beach villas are one of the best East Africa resorts and are perfect destination for visitors who want to spend their vacations in the lap of nature. For decades generations of families have made Lamu Island the vacation destination of choice in which to share treasured moments and make lasting memories.


    Even if money's tight, you can still take the Lamu vacation of your dreams. More and more, mid-priced beach resorts are putting on the ritz for price-conscious families, offering Oceanside campfires and nature walks, elaborate kids' swimming pools, and upscale room decor. These facts aren't from a brochure, Web site, or travel agent working on commission -- they're the result of our in-depth review of many resorts in Lamu Island. The Lamu Island is a stylish and fun choice for beach holidays and it appeals to everyone from families, couples or singles to groups of friends who are looking for something special. And, it truly is a special area. Choosing a self-catering holiday rental is perfect for days spent enjoying the spectacular beach; there are some wonderful holiday homes to choose from in the Lamu Island area. Couples and singles will love the huge selection of superior Lamu holiday apartments available so if an apartment in Lamu is what you had in mind, or a luxury holiday home you'll have some beautiful holiday properties to choose from.


    Choose a holiday home in Manda for family holidays to remember. Self-catering is an excellent choice when the freedom to come and go as you please is important. Explore Lamu Island at your leisure from a beautiful holiday cottage. With no hotel timetables to adhere to that holiday villa in beautiful gardens in Lamu is very tempting. Perfect for days spent at the beach or enjoying the thrills and spills of Busch Gardens. Whatever you have in mind, you can be certain you'll find it, and more, in Lamu coast. Look out for last minute deals and offers for cheap holiday villas and apartments. It's a fantastic way for those on a budget to get the holiday home they want and it's ideal for young friends who want to rent together. There are properties to suit all sizes of party from a 2 or 6 bedroom holiday villa to a 2 bedroom holiday cottage or a 1 bedroom apartment with stunning sea views. Whether you're coming to Lamu alone or whether you're bringing the whole family plus a few friends there's the right holiday rental for you


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