Lamu residents in new push to name island's streets

A street in Lamu Old Town. Locals want the streets named using ancient names to preserve the island's rich history.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu I Nation

The National Museums of Kenya has backed a proposal by locals to name Lamu island’s streets using ancient names.

Curator in charge of Lamu museums Mohammed Mwenje said this will help preserve the island’s historical identity.

“We’ve already met with Governor Issa Timamy who promised to ensure the proposal is implemented for the historical betterment of Lamu, a Unesco World Heritage site. The reintroduction of such names will pay great respect to our culture,” said Mr Mwenje.

Lamu Old Town is a major tourist attraction in the region.

The town is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa.

It has continuously been inhabited for over 700 years and was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2001 owing to its unique culture and heritage spanning centuries.

Shebwana Ahmed, an elder, proposed names such as Zahid Ngumi, Mwanahadia Famau and Habib Swaleh that have a history with Lamu to be used when branding the streets.

Currently, Lamu Old Town has only one branded pathway-the Harambee Street which is the main route that cuts through the middle of town from Jua Kali and Bosnia areas to Langoni, Mkunguni, Mkomani and Wiyoni areas.

Ahmed said it would be prudent to name all the remaining streets for ease of visitors’ movement and to majorly market the history of Lamu Old Town to the world.

“The names are of prominent people in the history of Lamu,” said Mr Ahmed.

Maryam Bakari said apart from using names that reflect the history of Lamu, the county government can also consider branding some of the streets with names that denote the culture of Lamu as a way of paying homage to the old town.

“The Bajuni have local dialects like ‘ambacha’ (stick on the wall) and ‘usiche’ (don’t be deterred) which can be used. By doing so, we will also be promoting our local language and dialect,” she said.


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