Lamu is a small island town with a population of about 50,000 people. Lying off Kenya’s north coast, this is a town where everyone knows everybody. It is so small that tourists can walk the entire town in just two hours. The streets and pathways constructed in-between buildings are narrow and interconnected. There are no taxis or modern means of transportation within the town. Everyone walks around either on foot or donkeys. There are over 4,000 donkeys in the town. Speedboats, canoes, dhows and donkeys remain the main means of transportation within the town and neighbouring islands. As a matter of fact, you need a boat to convey you from the airport into the main town. There are only 3 vehicles in the town. One belongs to the District Commissioner, another is an Ambulance (Tri-cycle) and the third is used for waste disposal.
Lamu is powered by four large generators: two during the day and the other two at night. The city has lots of mosques and hotels, few churches and a handful of local banks. There are many Quranic schools, few high schools and a polytechnic where arts and crafts are learnt. The primary occupation of the Lamu people is farming (fish and agriculture) and tour guiding. Lamu is a self-sufficient island with its basic needs produced from within. The town is divided into the three sections: the Old town, the New town and the main town. The town has two main streets – Harambee Road on the waterfront and Jomo Kenyatta Street. There is a central town square where people gather every evening to watch news on a giant outdoor screen using a projector. Most of the houses are built and designed using a fusion of archaic Arabian, African and Indian architecture, which dates back to the 15th century. The oldest building in the town is the Lamu Fort, which is about 300 years old. It was built with coral stone and mangrove timber. Finally, Lamu is a conservative island, so visitors are expected to respect local customs as well as recommended dress codes, especially while away from the beaches.