Lamu Old Town boasts itself of being home to hundreds of sites and monuments, including the oldest tombs in the country, most of which date back to the pre-colonial period.
According to insights from the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), there are at least three historical tombs that exist within Lamu Old Town.
These tombs are between 200 and 400 years old and act as key tourists attractions in Lamu.
The centuries-old tombs have been earmarked as historical sites and monuments in Lamu.
Some of the renowned oldest historical tombs in the region include that of Mwenye Mui Zahid Mngumi which has existed for over 200 years.
It is situated within Langoni area in Lamu Old Town.
Zahid Ngumi was the Lamu Old Town’s Patron.He is famously known for building the Lamu Fort between 1813 and 1821.
The Lamu Fort is an important structure in Lamu’s history. The fort also has over 200 years of existence. The Lamu Fort is situated right in the middle of Lamu Old Town.The Lamu Fort and the Lamu Old Town’s history are inseparable.
The fort is a massive two-storey structure at the town’s entrance around the square facing the harbour.
It is believed that the construction of the fort began around 1810 either shortly before or after the 1812 Battle of Shella in Lamu’s victory over Pate and Mombasa.
Mohamed Ali Mwenje, the curator with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in charge of the Lamu Museums and Lamu World Heritage sites says the fort’s major construction was reputedly undertaken by Mwenye Mui-Zahid Mngumi, through cooperation from Seyyid Said — the Sultan of Oman — who was then cultivating a promising new alliance with Lamu.
Another oldest and famously known historical tomb is that of Mwana Hadie Famau which has existed for between 300 to 400 years, according to NMK.
It is located in Mkomani area, also in Lamu Old Town.
Mwana Hadie Famau is referred to as the ‘Saint of Lamu’ due to the strong religious beliefs that she portrayed during her lifetime in Lamu.
Her tomb is crucial to Muslim faithful, some of whom have developed a tendency of traveling from far and wide to visit the tomb and conduct special prayers in respect to Mwana Hadie Famau-‘the Saint of Lamu.’
Another renowned historical tomb, also earmarked as a national monument in Lamu Old Town is the 14th Century Pillar Tomb in Gadeni area within Lamu Old Town.
Mr Mwenje notes that Zahid Mngumi Tomb, Mwana Hadie Famau Tomb, and the Gadeni Pillar Tomb are key since they are tied to Lamu’s history and image, having been around for over 100 years.
“These tombs are a key tourist attraction in this place. That’s why they have been put under the care of NMK since they are also tied to the history of Lamu Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site,” said Mr Mwenje.
Of all the 47 counties, Lamu has the highest number of historical monuments and buildings.
Lamu Old Town remains a key tourist attraction site in the Coast region due to its effortlessly preserved culture and heritage spanning decades.
Today, the town stands as the oldest surviving town in East Africa with over 700 years of continuous human habitation.
It also remains the only Swahili settlement to retain its original character since its inception.