Picture yourself living in a town where there are no cars or any form of motorised transport and with no plans of having vehicles in the near future.
This is the life bequeathed to residents of Lamu Old Town by their forefathers who established the town in 1370, more than 650 years ago.
Rahama Rashid, a correspondent from Lamu, told Kenyans.co.ke that the buildings are built so close together that three is literally no space for cars.
“The mainland is different from the Island in that the roads are completely impassable for even the smallest cars. Donkeys and pull carts (mkokoteni) are the only allowed modes of transport.
“Residents have to walk while tourists can pay anywhere between Ksh 500 and Ksh 1,000 to use the donkeys to move around,” she explained.
Donkey owners are some of the well off residents in the quiet town, due to their commercial viability. It is the equivalent of owning a pick up or matatu in Nairobi.
Being the oldest town in East Africa, it is distinguished by narrow alleys and majestic stone buildings with stunning curved doors, which are inspired by a rare combination of Swahili, Arabic, Persian, Indian, and European architectural styles.
Lamu Old Town is a protected World Heritage Site and any development is subject to many approvals by the National Museums of Kenya, the National Environmental Authority and the Physical Planning Act 2006.
To protect the rich culture and architecture, it is unlawful to demolish buildings to expand the roads.
Apart from the beasts of burden, dhows are the primary mode of transportation between the Lamu’s cluster of islands which are more than 35.
This cluster of islands include Lamu Old Town, Shella, Manda, Ras Kitau, Matondoni, Kipungani, Siyu, Pate, Faza, Kizingitini, Ndau, Mkokoni, Kiwayu, and Kiunga.
Just like Nairobi Matatus, the owners have fancy names for their donkey carts, boats and dhows.
According to Rahama, the biggest risk to the rich culture is the emerging use of motorcycles.
“Some unscrupulous people are trying to sneak in motorcycles, some which have led to accidents while speeding in these narrow corridors,” she explained.