A brief Overview of Lamu
Lamu Old Town, located on an island known by the same name on the coast of East Africa some 350 km north of Mombasa, is the oldest and best preserved example of Swahili settlement in East Africa.
With a core comprising a collection of buildings on 16 ha, Lamu has maintained its social and cultural integrity, as well as retaining its authentic building fabric up to the present day.
Once the most important trade centre in East Africa, Lamu has exercised an important influence in the entire region in religious, cultural as well as in technological expertise. A conservative and close-knit society, Lamu has retained its important status as a significant centre for education in Islamic and Swahili culture, example the annual Maulidi and cultural festivals.
The growth and decline of the seaports on the East African coast and interaction between the Bantu, Arabs, Persians, Indians, and Europeans represents a significant cultural and economic phase in the history of the region which finds its most outstanding expression in Lamu Old Town, its architecture and town planning. Aware of the cultural significance of the town, the government authorized the first conservation study, sponsored by UNESCO, in 1974 and the old town was gazetted as a national monument in 1983. In year 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNISECO) declared the island of Lamu a World Heritage Site, and historical buildings are protected.
Unlike other Swahili settlements which have been abandoned along the East African coast, Lamu has continuously been inhabited for over 700 years.
The first Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri family in Lamu:
In 1870, Dewji Jamal established a branch of his Company, Dewji Jamal & Co. in Lamu, Kenya. At that time Lamu was the main trading port in Kenya. A decade would go by before any additional establishments and settlements would appear in Lamu by the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheris. The arrival of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri family began after 1880 and continued thereafter for almost a decade. Most of the families came from Kutch or Kathiawar in India and some came from East Africa coast towns of Bagamoyo, Zanzibar and Kilwa. The families later move to Mombasa as the trading activities shifted to Mombasa.
AFED Delegation Visits Lamu:
The Africa Federation Delegation visited the Island of Lamu in Kenya on Saturday 15th November 2014 (Muharram 1436) during the visit to Mombasa. Visit was headed by the Chairman Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi and accompanied by the Vice Chairman Alhaj Shabir Najafi, Hon. Secretary, Alhaj Aunali Khalfan, Mombasa Jamaat Chairman Alhaj Sajjad Rashid, Central Bilal Board Chairman (CBB), Alhaj Mohsin Lalji, the Africa Federation Tabligh Board (AFTAB), Chairman Seyed Hassan Naqvi, Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya (BMMK) Chairman Alhaj Abbas Nasser, Head of the Mombasa Jamaat Jaffery Complex Development Project and Chairman of the Education Board, Alhaj Mohamed Hussein Jaffer, Alhaj Amir Merali AFED Nominated Councillor, Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania (BMMT) Head of Tabligh, Syed Arif Naqvi, BMMT CEO, Alhaj Amir Ahmed, BMMK Managing Committee Member, Alhaj Akber Kassamali and Alhaj Yusuf Jiwa of Mombasa.
The delegation was received by Alhaj Ali Bunu, Chairman, Alhaj Hassan Albayti, Hon. Secretary and Abdallah Salim Sary, Hon. Treasuer of Al Mawaddah Foundation at Manda airport. The visitors took a few minutes boat ride to Lamu town. Alhaj Ali Bunu briefed the delegation on the various tabligh activities which are carried out by their Institution in Lamu. Al Mawadah is a non-profit religious organization which has been in existence for more than 18 years; a visit was made to their Centre and Library. Alhaj Hassan Albayti explained of the difficulties they face for lack of equipment, like computers, printers and photocopying machine, internet etc.; he said these are needed to improve efficiency of the administration and record keeping.
Central Bilal Board (CBB) Chairman, Alhaj Mohsin Lalji pledged on behalf of CBB of Africa Federation – four Desktop Computers, one photocopying machine and one printer for Al Mawadah Library, which has since been provided.
The visitors accompanied by the hosts walked through the narrow streets of Lamu. The delegation saw our community properties; Kabrastan, Kibaki Ground, Residential house, Mosque and Imambargha/Madressah which is at the rear of the Mosque. The Imambargha and Madressah are in need of urgent and major renovations as the building condition is not good. Al Mawadah Institution are presently the care-takers of the Mosque, Imambargha, a residential house and Kabrastan. The administrative and financial management of the assets, i.e. Land and Property tax is dealt by Alhaj Sultan Molu, the Afed Kenyan Trustee in Mombasa, who also keeps the documentation of the assets, like title deeds and other documents.
The delegation also visited Kabrastan where old graves of the pioneers of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri in East Africa are still preserved, and a care-taker is employed looking after the upkeep of the cemetery.
The visitors saw the open ground, known as Kibaki Ground encroached by squatters and part of the plot has been taken over by some outside institutions without permission, the matter is being dealt by our Trustee in Mombasa through a Lawyer, however there is a need to protect the remaining plot by erecting a fence wall around it. This matter needs urgent action.
Africa Federation Secretariat records its appreciation to the following people who made it possible to visit Lamu at a short notice, they are:
- Alhaj Mohamed Jaffer and Alhaj Mohsin Lalji (Sheni) for providing the aircraft and logistics for the delegation to travel conveniently to and from Lamu.
- Special thanks to Alhaj Sajjad Rashid, Chairman of Mombasa Jamaat and Alhaj Mohamed Jaffer for arranging the visit to Lamu.
- Alhaj Sultan Molu for coordinating the visit of AFED office bearers to Mombasa.
- Alhaj Ali Bunu for organizing the sumptuous breakfast and lunch and presenting the AFED Chairman with a beautiful gift of the model of a traditional Dhow and the members of the delegation with the Lamu Kofia.
- Alhaj Hassan Albayti for organizing a visit and a meeting with the Governor of Lamu.
- Al Mawadah, CBB, BMMK & BMMT, AFTABAFED Nominated Councillor, Alhaj Amir Merali for joining the AFED delegation to Lamu and for all the support provided.