What you need to know:
- On Lamu Island, particularly the Old Town, most people walk or ride on donkeys
- The few vehicles and motorcycles in the area, especially on the outskirts of the historical town, means minimal noise pollution.
- Mrs Fauth is among foreigners at the forefront of promoting Swahili Culture and wellbeing as two pillars of tourism on the island.
When Monika Fauth visited Lamu Island as a tourist from the Netherlands 25 years ago, nothing crossed her mind that she would be fascinated by anything in the archipelago.
But after spending days on the island, she got engrossed in the unique lifestyle that residents led.
It is only in Lamu Island, particularly the Old Town, where most people walk or ride on donkeys. The presence of few vehicles and motorcycles, especially on the outskirts of the historical town, means minimal noise pollution.
The Old Town was listed as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 2001, owing to its well-preserved culture and heritage spanning decades. It is arguably the most unique and beautiful Swahili town in Kenya, though its status has, in recent years, been tarnished by the presence of boda boda operators who seem to erode efforts to preserve its cultural richness.
Cultural and natural beauty
Speaking to Nation.Africa this week, Mrs Fauth recollected that during her visit as a tourist, she felt that the island’s beauty and uniqueness were due to its culture, nature and "slow-paced" lifestyle.
She chose to establish a place at Shela. Today, Mrs Fauth is among foreigners at the forefront of promoting Swahili Culture and wellbeing as two pillars of tourism on the island.
In 2014, in an effort to promote Lamu after some harsh years of low tourism, she founded the Lamu Yoga Festival. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility, and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing.
The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing. The practice originated in India about 5,000 years ago.
Mrs Fauth, a loving advocate for people, community, and overall wellbeing, introduced the festival. A widely travelled and adventurous soul with a penchant for improving the lives of others, Mrs Fauth showed up for her roles, being a wife, mother, yoga teacher, guide, and mentor.
Eight years down the line, the festival has become one of the most sought-after events, attracting participants, mostly from the Africa Continent, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, and Ethiopia. Yoga enthusiasts from other continents such as Europe, America, and Asia also participate every year.
This year, the eighth edition of the festival will be marked on October 5-9. It is expected to attract over 400 participants from across the globe.
“I love to serve those seeking to access new levels of alignment with their divine power, as well as life force energy. Being the founder, organiser, and yoga teacher, the key target here is to promote the general participants’ wellbeing, especially on matters of health, improve immunity, have a calmer mind, less stress, and be more energetic,” said Mrs Fauth.
“Wellbeing is one of the most important ‘words’ of the 21st century. Lamu Island is the wellbeing destination of East Africa. As you’re aware, the Island is natural? There are no cars, no pollution, amazing nature, clean beaches and ocean, great breeze, and friendly people. There’s no hurry. We have fantastic food and a good lifestyle. That’s why I prefer staying here at Shella on the amazing Lamu Island.”
The mother of two boys expressed her happiness at having helped popularise yoga, which is growing rapidly in the world.
“My training as a valley coach yoga and art of living teacher, breathwork, and meditation practitioner have all served the growth and impact of my creations with which I seek to impact others through sharing my knowledge and experience,” she says.
Mrs Fauth’s love for yoga also prompted her to establish the notable Banana House and Wellness Centre at Shela. This has for years become the actual centre for yoga activities.
She expressed happiness with the fact that the yoga is gaining momentum and relevance in the whole country, and, in particular, along the Kenyan Coast where international holidaymakers are flying in to partake in yoga activities.
“Lamu Island, with its tropical climate, excellent variety in accommodation to fit one’s budget, miles of empty beaches, and car-free sandy roads. It is an ideal destination to relax and leave behind life’s stress. Surely, Lamu Island is a magical place to practice yoga,” said Mrs Fauth.
She says the event has also grown to motivate the women on Lamu Island, many of whom have embraced the annual festival. She reveals that in recent years, many local women and men, as well as those from upcountry, have been participating.
“They now practise yoga every day. They also volunteer at the festival. In fact, the local women are more and more interested, as everybody starts to understand that health is important. Yoga is not only good for the body but also for the mind,” she said.
During an interview with Nation.Africa in her office, Lamu Tourism Association deputy chair Fridah Njeri thanked Mrs Fauth for coming up with such a crucial festival that has turned out to be one of the key cultural events in the Lamu calendar that promotes the county’s tourism.
The activities usually incorporated in the five-day yoga fete include over 25 teachers involved in 150 yoga classes, meditations, and workshops in Shela, Lamu Town, Kipungani, and Manda Island.
There are also experiences of different yoga styles, including trapeze yoga, sound healing, Afro dance, and early bird yoga.
Participants also get a taste of the Swahili culture and join the Swahili dinner, Sunset Dhow sail, and final bonfire and celebrations.
“The more festivals we have the more we keep our Lamu heritage and culture at global notches. Remember, every time a yoga festival is organised, hotels and guest houses, particularly in Lamu and Shela towns, are always fully booked by those flocking to the archipelago to partake in the unique yoga activities,” said Ms Njeri.
Apart from the yoga festival, other annual events that brand Lamu an ‘Island of Festivals’ include the Lamu Cultural Festival, Eid-Ul-Adha, Maulid Festival, Food and Expo Festival, Lamu Fishing Competition, Lamu Arts Festival, Kite Festival, Shela Hats Contest, and Lamu Painters Festival.