By Bernard Wainaina
I’m writing this from Manda Beach, Lamu, under a pagoda on a tour of duty,attending an Agribusiness Seminar.
An arms length away is a chilled glass of red wine,waiting breathlessly to be sipped.
I’ve just applied some free sample
sunscreen, which means if my kin and kith from shags were to smell me, they would imagine me to be a bit too fruity for their own reputation.
Across, in the next island,is the princess of Monaco’s palatial indulgence- it commands reverence.
To my left, in a different pagoda is Georges-Marc Andre, a EU Ambassador who I shared a
dhow with here from the hotel.
He has such swanky Ray Bans that I would have loved nothing better than to steal.
But Georges is cool, so I let the thug in me sit still.
It’s Friday,which means it’s the day Lamu House hotel throws a beach lunch at their Lamu House Beach Club at Manda
It all goes down a storm.
It also means, one of the coolest chaps you will meet in Lamu, Frank Feremans (he owns Lamu House but more on him later) will be walking from one pagoda to the next, handing finger
foods and asking if there is anything at all you need with your drink before lunch is served.
Central African music trickles from the makuti-thatched bar behind as speedboats moor into the beach with more guests.
The sun bristles overhead. This is heaven on a Friday.
Lamu has had a bad rap, from the last kidnapping of the French dame and the shooting of that poor chap in XX to the recent Mpeketoni massacre.
Business quickly went to the cleaners.
But it’s rising from the aches, slowly, a day at a time.
We can’t let the terrorists win,whether they disguise themselves as Al Shaabab or Kenyan Opposition as alleged in some circles.
We must venture out,and enjoy our coastal beaches.
It’s rising because the men and women who call it home work tirelessly at it.
Men like Frank.
And Mohammed, the effusive waiter from Kizingoni.
And Mohamed (I guess it’s a common name), our chirpy speed boat captain who shouted macabre tales of the sea over his roaring engine
and the cook who cooked at the beach under a wooden sign; “Kiss the Cook” and…ah, many folk.
Many great folk.
If you have been to Lamu before, you know you don’t need many reasons to go back.
But if you haven’t here are my thirteen and a half reasons why you should.
I say 13 because today is a Friday , the half is, well, I don’t know, it sounds cool.
Ps. Pix when I finally come up for air, tomorrow.
Here is why you should visit Lamu and experience its magic first hand
Because we don’t feel the rough earth enough like the folk in Lamu do.
They mostly walk barefoot because they want
to be earthed to the universe.
They want to be unhinged from the fleeting promises of modernity.
It’s quite Zen,me thinks.
In Lamu, you don’t want anything between
the soles of your feet and the earth because you will miss something.
Try it; in the hotel, or at the beach.
It’s the only way to discover the emotions of your feet.
»Visit Petley’s Bar
Because it’s there.
It’s always been there.
It’s where everybody herds to quench their thirst.
It’s hangs on the top floor of Petley’s Inn, which means the view is spectacular.
The music will surprise you, because it’s
quite recent even if the house next to the bar is from another era.
There you will spread out on the heavily
cushioned lounge chairs and smell the sea even when you aren’t looking at it.
Plus, the beers are cold.
Not the devil.
That’s his name.
His real name.
He has volunteered to be my tour guide around here,but hefty tips are always welcome after his “volunteering”.
There is a deep, dark underlying message being named Satan by your parents.
He is a Cool guy, though.
Knows people, knows places, knows things and will get you anything you need in the island.
But that name, my God!
»Meet ugly Flight attendants
Is it me or did you notice that the beauty bar of Local flight attendants plunged dangerously while we were all fussing over inflation rates and the price of sugar?
No, seriously,when was the last time you boarded a plane and thought to yourself that, if, by some rotten chance the plane should plunge and crash, you would be glad that you died
because you the last person the hot flight attendant asked,“Tuna or chicken sandwich, sir?”
I honestly can’t.
Maybe in 80’s, but then I was a teenager and I wore my raging hormones were in my face…and other body parts.
Fact: flight attendants are now too thin, too fat or too rude to fly.
I’m just saying, let’s not get emotional
because I’ve used the word “thin” here.
But surprisingly, the Lamu route has both pretty and ugly flight attendants; perfect smiles and bodies created over a Rose.
»Visit Kizingoni Beach
It’s half hour from Lamu town by speedboat, at the edge of the clearing that leads you into the deep sea.
But you could swim there if you are feeling Phlepsy (just made up that word,and I honestly don’t know what it means!).
Kizingino is, well, how do I say this?
They are exclusive villas staring at the sea, built
specifically for luxury.
Eight houses, all set by the beach.
Every villa has it’s own staff that tends to your every whim.
Bruce Willis has held court there, so has Mick
Jagger, the great Sir David Frost (I slept in the same bed he did, I was informed) and all these honchos who land in their private choppers all seeking total privacy and splendour.
You could stay in a villa for two weeks and
not know who is in the next villa.
Great if you want Me-Time with yourself,in your own company,unaccompanied-that’s the word I’m fishing for (sigh).
Or is on a honeymoon.
Or if you are on ICC-The Hague witness protection program.
Or you are writing a book.
Or thinking about it.
Nights are marked by a moaning sea, days are bright and sunny, an apt reflection of God’s mood on the seventh day.
Because nowhere will you hear this word more often.
You will hear it there more times than you will in Mombasa, because Mombasa is jaded by the “up-country” types who rightfully don’t appreciate the weight of that word.
However, in Lamu it’s more than just a greeting, it’s an anointment.
»Drink ‘Madafu'(coconut milk)
Because it’s sold at the seafront by a sully man with sad little eyes.
But it’s cool and refreshing and some cat
hanging around Mr Moody will tell you helpfully, with a wry smile, “Ni mzuri sana kwa wanaume”(Swahili for;this is a natural “Viagra”). Right?
»Visit Shela Island
Because there you will be amused to learn that the wealthy take 15mins to apply sunscreen on their bodies.
Longer than I take to drive to work.
Patronize the Floating Bar
Because a cold beer is only Ksh 200bob.
Which is a steal because you can always sit at the edge, with your feet in the warm balmy water and feel the bar bob under your feet, as – before you – the skyline stretches beautifully
into Calcutta, India. Ahem.
» Treat yourself to a hearty Smile
Because since we, from the city, go through life
grimacing and scowling, it’s refreshing to go down and find an Island full of smiles.
And because of that, it teaches you how to smile not with your mouth, but with your spirit.
And you will be surprised to learn one thing;
smiling really won’t hurt. Or crack your make-up’s foundation.
»Eat Red Snapper Fish.
Red snapper around here,is grilled to submission.
She comes on a plate with the golden marks of grills running across her, like a uniform of sovereignty.
A grill of honour.
You squeeze lime all over her and watch her
soak it all in.
You put a plop of Heinz or Ketch-up tomato sauce on the side of the plate.
Using a fish knife –a lucky fish knife – you
delicately incise a piece, squeeze some more lime onto it again for good measure, smear it slight on the ketchup and you put it away.
No bones will embarrassingly get stuck in your throat, so your street smart credentials will always remain solid.
»Visit Lamu House
Where else would you want to stay in Lamu Town?
It’s only 10 rooms, which means it’s intimate and exclusive as Garden of Eden.
The interior décor speaks in an old Swahili tongue.
The general architecture is animatedly Lamu; the bed, doors,chairs, windows, stools.
Service, truly, is unpeered.
And when you step out of the door (careful you aren’t run over by a donkey) you are at the seafront gasping in the sea air.
I hereby endorse Lamu House with everything
ink I have left.
If you go and are disappointed, I will personally have the owner throw in something special on
the house for you next time you go down.
»Meet Frank Feremans
Because he owns Lamu House.
Because he is more than a guy who owns a hotel, he’s a guy who loves running a
Because he is fresh and cool and has stubble that makes him look like an out-of-work actor.
Because Frank will really care about you when you stay at his hotel.
Because he is a chef, has been since he was 16,
which means he’s always in the kitchen at his hotel,cooking meals for guests together with his local apprentice.
And Frank knows his onions.
Because he says he’s more like Jeremy Oliver than Gordon Ramsey,which means he isn’t a potty mouth.
Because when I asked him who, in his opinion, he thinks really screwed up Lamu after the Mpeketoni Massacre, he looked me dead in the
eye and hissed, “journalists,” and you have to
appreciate such nude honesty -anybody who says stuff in your face won’t feel the need to say it behind your back.
Because he has worked in 20 African countries for most of his life and says that Africa is in his blood, technically longer than it has been in mine.
Because he has always cooked and built hotels with his bare hands even in countries like Congo that would crumble as soon as regimes changed hands.
Because, on his right hand, are tons of bracelets that collectively are older than his
55years of age: a gift from his wife; one from his godchild, one he bought in France with his wife’s pal,one from his son, a unique one that he and his two sons,his brother and his brother’s four sons rock.
They were all gifts.
Frank is a man who wears family on his hands.
Since he works tirelessly with his hands, it is befitting for his family to continually gift the work of his hands.
And he never removes them.
Not even to bed.
Lastly, because Frank, even after 30years of marriage still looks at his wife when she speaks.
He really does, like what she is saying is really important and is of major interest to him.
Even if it doesn’t.
But then again, Marianne Feremans is
a tall beautiful lady with a sea-chiselled face, what’s there not to look at?
»Cultivate a sense of EndlessTime
Because – as Frank put it succinctly – you,from the city,might have watches, but we in Lamu have the time.
That’s Lamu for you!
A paradise lost.
“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®
“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®