What you need to know:
- Mkunguni Square is part of the Lamu Fort Museum which was taken over by the National Museums of Kenya in 1984.
- Mkunguni Square is situated right in the middle of the Lamu Old Town which was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2001.
- Visitors, who find it hard to manouvre the narrow streets of the town, use Mkunguni Square as the central meeting point.
Mkunguni Square in Lamu Old Town has become the oldest meeting point in the county for people from all walks of life.
The name ‘Mkunguni’ was inspired by the Mkungu tree which has existed in the area for centuries.
Mkunguni Square is part of the Lamu Fort Museum which was taken over by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in 1984.
The Lamu Fort’s construction started in 1813, shortly after Lamu’s victory over Pate and Mombasa in the battle of Shella and was completed in 1821.
Upon completion, the fort marked the southern end of the original stone town and served as a garrison for the Baluchi soldiers (from India) who were sent by the Sultan of Oman.
The protective presence of the fort encouraged new development around it and by 1900 it had become a social centre for the community, a role it still plays to date.
According to Lamu Cultural Promotional Group Chairman Ghalib Alwy, Mkunguni Square became a crucial meeting point almost over 100 years ago.
“In fact, it started functioning when our elders converged at the square to meet the Sultan Zahidi Ngumi who visited the region for the first time. Since then, it’s being used for similar purposes,” says Mr Alwy.
Mkunguni Square is situated right in the middle of the Lamu Old Town which was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2001.
Visitors, who find it hard to manouvre the narrow streets of the town, use Mkunguni Square as the central meeting point.
Mr Charles Harrison, a tourist, says it is easier to meet at Mkunguni Square than anywhere else since the place is not very crowded and is in the middle of the town.
“It’s a cool place. I am new to this place but Mkunguni Square has been of great help since it’s where I have meeting my friends,” says Harrison.
Apart from Mkunguni Square and the Lamu Fort, the region also boats of a museum. The Lamu Museum is a cultural and architectural jewel on Lamu Island.
One of the reasons that led to its enlistment as UNESCO world heritage site is because of the town’s important religious functions that continue to be a significant centre for education in Islamic and Swahili culture.
Another reason was because the town’s historical architecture preserves the importance of human interactions, which have come together over hundreds of years, in a bid to create a distinct culture.
WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Lamu is also the best example of the growth and decline of East Africa’s seaports, a reason which also contributed to its enlistment as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lamu Consists of over 40 individual towns or ‘mitaa’ with a main business street which is literally the town main street separating the old stone town from the comparatively recent 21th century seafront.
Mr Charles Harrison, a tourist says it’s easier to meet at Mkunguni Square than anywhere else since the place is less crowed and with the fact that it’s right at the middle of the old town.
“It’s a cool place. It’s at the middle of the Old Town. I am new to this place but Mkunguni Square has been of great assistance since it’s where I have been using to meet my friends since I came. It’s not easy to get lost after mastering the location of the Mkunguni Square,” says Harrison.
Apart from the Mkunguni Square and the Lamu Fort, the region also boats itself for having a museum-The Lamu Museum.
The Lamu museum is a magnificent multicultural architectural jewel on Lamu Island.
The museum was built in the 19th century and served as the Li-Walis (Governor) and later the District Commissioner’s residence.
The building earned its current status in 1971 as a museum and hosts one of the best Ethnographic collections in the region.
The museum now counts as one of the most promising historical attractions of the Lamu Archipelago.
The museum has priceless exhibits depicting the life and history of the town and the surrounding Swahili towns.
Lamu also boasts itself of having various historical attraction sites.
Among them is the Takwa Ruins located on Manda Island and covering nearly twelve acres, the ruins are the remains of a Swahili city that flourished between the 15th-17th century.
Once home to 2,500 people, the settlement was abandoned in the 17th century because sea water contaminated the city’s wells.
It was originally home to the ancestors of the people of Shella.
Takwa is situated at the end of a tidal channel which flows through the mangroves at the foot of the dunes and gives access to one of the most unique beaches. The site is maintained by the National Museums of Kenya since 1977.
Takwa includes the remains of mosques, tombs and over 100 lime and coral ruins. Another attraction site in Lamu is the Siyu Fort.
Siyu is the only town that built its own fort unlike Lamu and Mombasa where the forts were put up by foreigners.
Oral tradition indicates that this fort was put up by Siyu’s great leaders Bwana Mataka in the 19th century to safeguard Siyu residents from the Omani Arabs domination.
The fort, constructed by coral with a small mosque within it, was gazette in 1958 as a national monument.
Apart from the impressive fort, Siyu is host to the remains of magnificent tombs and mosques while the present village is still known for its well established leather craft and wood carving cottage industries.