Since the 24th of February, we have been back in Shella, which also is situated at Lamu Island.

If you look at the Internet, you will find many pictures from Shella there. Above all, you will see the web site of Peponi restaurant and some very expensive and luxurious apartments and houses, which are free for rent if you can afford it. Some of these places cost 1000 euro per day. Some very rich Europeans and Americans have houses here, of which many are empty and deserted most of the year.


Shella Village

Shella is a village, not small but not big either. I think that there are more or less one thousand permanent inhabitants here. It takes around half an hour by boat to reach this lovely place. The main road of Shella is the Waterfront where many hotels and restaurants are located, but behind Waterfront, is the village of Shella with many shops where one can buy everything from food to cloths and there are also many beautiful private houses and hotels of which many are built in Swahili style.


Shella is clean compared to Lamu town

The streets are very narrow like the streets in Lamu town, but here the streets are clean as each household in the village contributes with a monthly amount for cleaning the streets and this system seems to function very well. In Lamu town the cleaning is administrated by the council, people have explained to us. There are also fewer donkeys in Shella than in Lamu town so it is probably easier to keep this place clean. And it is a small place, a village.


Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood is sold directly by the fishermen who sell for example tuna fish, red snapper, oysters, lobster (only sometimes) and crabs. But lobster is expensive here like everywhere else. The price is 1200 Kenyan shillings per kilo, which is nearly one hundred Swedish crowns. However, I do not find it expensive at all. The oysters cost 250 per kilo, which is nearly twenty crowns and the crab costs forty to fifty. Tuna fish is cheaper – 250 -300 per kilo, which is less than thirty crowns and it, is very good. The snapper is probably cheaper. We have not tried it yet.


Where we stay  

On Saturday the 5th of March, we will have access to a flat that we have rented until April so just now we are staying in a hotel in the village. The place where we live is very nice, because it is a hotel where both Africans and people from different countries in Europe stay.

Close to the hotel is a lovely restaurant where they have very nice food, but they do not serve alcohol since the owner is a Muslim like most people here. The restaurant is in a palace from the beginning of the 20th century and outside there is a garden that is like the Garden of Eden. In a few days, I will go there and take photos of  it. All the tables of the restaurant are outside, next to the garden, where a fountain is situated in the middle.

The smells from some of the flowers is like a very expensive perfume. I do only know the name of these flowers in Swahili, not in English, but I shall try to find out as soon as I have unpacked our luggage and found the batteries of our camera.


A special garden at hotel Baitil Aman

Yesterday I visited the garden together with some of the people who work in the hotel. I was also showed around inside the hotel and the place was impressing, but not cheap. The price for a very big room with a huge balcony with a view to the garden was 100 USD per night in the middle season, which is now.

If we compare the price to prices in Europe, it is of course not expensive at all, but if you spend many months here, you must have another kind of budget so we cannot stay in such places. But for a week or two I find the price quite OK. But it is probably much more expensive during the high season, which is around Christmas and the New Year.


The environment and the beach

We are spending our days reading books and just below our small hotel apartment, where we are now, there is a big pool, which is very well looked after by a man whose task is only to look after the pool so that it is clean.

We swim sometimes in this pool, but we prefer the beach, which is one of the most wonderful beaches we have ever been to in any place in the world. There are no big waves in the sea like in many other places at the Indian Ocean, because Shella is situated at a strait between the island of Manda and Lamu Island. Wind surfers seem to like the place anyhow because there are quite a few of them.

It is difficult to find enough shadow at the beach but we usually stay under a frangipani tree, also called temple tree. That is a very beautiful tree with big white flowers, which seem to flourish all the time. I think you can find a photo of such a tree, which I took last year in Cape Town in Robert Stockli’s garden I Green Point.





Moving to an apartment

When writing this we have moved to a place of our own – an apartment in the village – situated on the first floor in a recently built house.

There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, one in each bedroom, a dining room with a huge table and a nice kitchen on the first floor. On the second floor is a roof terrace of at least 50 square meters, consisting of an open room, very big, and with a traditional roof covered with coconut leaves.

That is the living room of the apartment and it is very beautiful, as it is furnished in traditional style with comfortable furniture produced here. Especially two small sofas in dark wood are very beautiful. The third sofa is like a sofa bed and furthermore there is a hammock like a big swinging bed in which we can have our afternoon nap during the heat.

 Then there is, like in many other places, a big double bed, also produced here in traditional style. In that bed one can sleep during the night if one likes to sleep under the stars outside, like we did when we were young and traveled to places like Cairo, Istanbul and Athens.

Finally, there is a big table also produced here with chairs so we can also eat upstairs. Six people can sit around the table. From the roof we have a lovely view over Shella village. We can even have a glimpse of the sea from there.


 Inside a Swahili house

 Decoration in a Swahili home

 Decoration – Swahili style

 Anders watching the sea at the balcony


Daily service included

In the rent daily service is included and the price is quite OK according to our opinion.

A young man called Arnold works in our household 12 hours per week. He cleans, goes shopping and washes our clothes. We can decide ourselves how to use these 12 hours. You are welcome to come and join us if you feel like for a week or two. We have space enough and you won’t have to bother about the practical things of daily life. 


Close to the beach and Peponi restaurant

From the apartment to the beach it takes us less than five minutes to walk and there are many grocery shops close to the place. We do not have to go to Lamu town for shopping our daily food.

In Shella there is also a bank so if you don’t feel like it you don’t have to leave the place, but if you need to do something in town you can easily take a boat to the proper center of Lamu town. The price is very decent, like a bus ride in our town at home. The locals pay almost nothing for the transport. The prices are different for the mzungu (the white man) as we are called in Swahili.


Finally …

This was all we could tell our readers about our travel and whereabouts so far but we will be coming back and then we will probably write about food and restaurants.

Just now in these days there are celebrations going on because it is Mohammed’s birthday and this event is of great importance in this Muslim society, so many people come here from the main land and bus transports are running day and night. Some people come by ferry even from Zanzibar to participate in the celebrations.

We must, however, admit that we are quite uninterested so we continue reading our books, going to the beach and spending our time at Peponi’s as always.

Sometimes we also cook in our excellent kitchen and I have got a new friend who is called Anthony. I enclose a picture of him.


He is the chef at the Baitil Aman restaurant and he loves to try new dishes so he has got a little book from me in which I write the recipes for him and he has already tried several. I would like to give him some more dessert recipes, which fit in here to what we can find in the shops and at the market in town. Crème caramel he already knows but I was thinking of different pies and maybe some simple cakes.

If you send me some recipes I would appreciate it.  Preferably in English. Instead of deciliter you can use cups like the Swedish cups for coffee.




Lamu town centre – inhabitants and donkeys

The town of donkeys

A proverb says:”A man without a donkey is a donkey.” And that is true in Lamu town. Many people are completely depending on the donkeys for work and they transport everything from building material to whole families on the animals.      

In Lamu town live around fifteen thousand people and more than seven thousand donkeys and all of them have an owner, even if many of them walk on their own in the small narrow alleys of the town. If you feel like being the owner of a donkey you will have to pay around 160 euro. Compare that price to what a horse costs in Europe!

There is a hospital for donkeys and there is also a place at Waterfront where the tourists move around, where the donkeys can have a rest and drink water during the hot hours in the middle of the day from twelve o’clock and onwards. The donkeys are very obedient animals and they move exactly as the owner wants them to. He talks to them with special whistling sounds. Many owners beat them if they do not obey.

Here you can see a photo of two donkeys, which walk close to the market place.



The street net and the restaurants

Along the sea there is a long street called Waterfront where many of the restaurants are situated. Most of them are Swahili restaurants with no permit to sell alcohol. However, you can get alcohol if the waiter wants to go to another restaurant to fetch a couple of beers for you, but of course he expects you to tip him then, something we can understand. Only a few places have a permit to serve alcohol and all of them seem to have European owners.

Only two of these places are possible to visit. In one of them beggars and drug addicts ask you to give them either money or medicine of different kinds. Furthermore, that place is very dirty so it is not nice to sit there.

The most elegant place in town is called “Lamu house” and they have a pool, not very big, and you can have a room there for around two hundred euro per night. They also serve international food. Some of the dishes are good like vongole served like in Italy. 

And according to our taste, the Swahili food is not always good so the option is to cook your own food according to your personal taste, which we do most of the time. We buy crabs and lobsters alive and cook them in seawater. The price is more or less seven euro per kilo. Oysters are also sold in the streets.


The Maasais

In the streets are many maasais selling leather products with small pearls in bright colours. They are dressed in special colours like red and purple and they have a stick in their hand and lots of necklaces and bracelets all over the body. Here you can see a photo of our favourite Maasai. No maasai women are visible because they are the ones who produce the products and they work from their homes.


 Our favourite Maasai.


The tailors 

In the narrow alleys there are small dark shops and workshops on both sides of the streets. Many tailors have a small shop where you can have garments made. The sewing machines are manual, not electric as in Europe. A shirt for a man costs around 3.50 euro or sometimes more to have sewed according to your measures. A dress costs 7.50 euro and a pair of shorts costs the half amount.  Anders has had two shirts made of which one is not yet ready since the tailor has been to Mombasa for at least a week and nobody knows when he is going to be back. If ever!

Yesterday – Friday the 11th of February the shirt was finally ready and it was very nice and fitted Anders well. Although the tailor had chosen quite big brown wooden buttons so we will go there again and ask him to change them to white buttons.


Shops and workshops

There are bookshops, hardware shops, shops for different ready-made cloths, both for men and women and some shops have only Muslim cloths like long shirts for men and special small hats. There are also galleries with handicraft, barbers and hairdressers, woodcarvers and workshops where local furniture in dark wood is produced. There are no supermarkets here, no malls and the grocery shop is of the same kind as it was in our childhood. They sell everything in there except alcohol, which only can be bought in special shops very far away.

In the streets it is very crowded. Many people walk there and the donkeys demand a lot of space and they can sometimes be loaded with lots of goods like building material for example. When a donkey or a caravan of donkeys are passing, people have to let them pass. All over the street there is dung from the donkeys so when you go into a house you must take off your sandals because they are probably quite dirty.

We think that this island is interesting because here the industrial revolution has never occurred so the production is still like it was in Europe long before the 19th century, based on the work of family units. Maybe that is the reason why this island has been nominated a Unesco heritage.


 One of the small alleys


Alley in Lamu town


The women

Several times I have asked different women if I may have a photo of them and so far I have not succeeded. Therefore, I have only photos, which I have taken when the women are walking along the streets.

The fashion here is interesting as many women are covered in black from head to feet while others show their faces and there are also some women who have a long black dress and then they have wrapped a piece of cloth in bright colours around their heads and finally tied some black “curtain” over the bright cloth. It looks quite strange for European people I must admit, but as far as I have understood, there are many kinds of fashion. At  home women can of course be dressed as they like as long as they are not meeting foreign men.

Most people in this island are Muslims but there are also some Christian inhabitants here who have moved from the mainland to the island and they are dressed like people in other places in the world. To show respect for Muslim customs tourists are advised to cover themselves but nobody really cares except very few.

The mzungo (white man in Swahili, plural wazungo) does not fit in whatever he/she is wearing. So why care?


The mosques and the religion

In our guidebook we have read that there are more than twenty mosques in this small town and I am sure it is true. The imams are very busy here especially on Fridays. Sometimes we are woken in the morning at five because of the loud announcement from the mosque urging people to pray. Then it continues through the day until it is time to go to bed. I have never liked it and in some countries it is worse than here.

On Fridays they show religious programs at the market place on a big screen and prophets of different kinds are preaching in a demagogic way. The program is announced through loud speakers so that people know when the events will take place. Many Muslim children have to wake up at five in the morning to pray before they go to school.


Almond square

A few footsteps from Subira house where we live is the market place. In the middle of the square are two enormous almond trees giving the impression of being very old. They are very beautiful and you can see them on this picture below.



Donkey at the square


Around the trees there are benches where people are having a rest or just enjoying each other’s company. The benches are always full of people, mostly men, which you can imagine since we are in a Muslim society.

Behind the trees is the house of culture in the old fort, built in the 18th century to avoid enemies to invade the island. In this building there is also a public library where you have to pay a small amount of money to get books. It is not expensive so everybody can afford to go there.

On the other side of the square you find a covered building where vegetables, fruits, meat and fish are sold. If you want to become a vegetarian, I would advise you to visit the meat market. I have never seen so many flies in a place at the same time before and after my first and only visit to that market I have not touched meat. We only eat fish, seafood and vegetables and fruit nowadays.

Some people also sell their products outside at the square. They are keeping poultry in small cages and if you feel like eating a chicken you have to have it killed at the very spot where you buy it. I am not sure I would like to have one, but unfortunately that would be the only option you have.


Friday the 11th of February

However, today we have been to” Lamu House” and there we had lunch and it was lovely food. I had Italian “vongole” and Anders had “Tikka masala chicken” and we also had some wine and when we came home somebody had bought two lobsters for us from a fisherman and I cooked them in seawater and tomorrow we are going to have them for lunch.

Altogether I paid more or less one hundred Swedish crowns for the lobsters and that is considered very expensive here, but I found it quite reasonable because we sometimes have lobster also in Sweden for example at New Years Eve and the ones we buy are from the US and they are much more expensive than these which we can buy here.

Now when it is the 12th of February we will stay where we are for another week but after that we are going to Shela, which is the beach. When we are there, we will also be going to the island of Manda which is opposite Shela but that will be another story.

And this is all we can tell you about Lamu town and Lamu Island and the events that take place here in the month of February 2011.



For a couple of days we have had a young man of 14 visiting us in the morning. He wants to watch the map of Africa and now we have been working with the countries in eastern Africa, talking about which European countries whose rule they have been under, what language they speak in the country and the name of some major towns.

We have printed a map of Africa in the Cyber space café and from now on we have been working with Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar. Among these countries English is the main language only in Kenya and Tanzania because the other countries have all a very different colonial history.

Yesterday it was Saturday and Stephen did not go to school so he was here with us and we have been talking about the countries of northern Africa, Egypt, Lybia, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. We have spoken about the leader Mohammed Khadaffi and the way he rules his country.

Stephen has been to the library to find out what it costs to get books from there. At school there are very few books. And few teachers as well due to the low salaries probably. The first time we met the boy we helped him to get an e-mail address so he can write to us about his studies. We are going to pay the money for the school fees, books and uniform and we have already given his father money for the first three months at school. All together it will cost us a little more than two thousand crowns per year to support this boy.

Yesterday he read Jules Vernes – “Around the world in eighty days” – a book he really liked. The version was written for children so it was a book of only 50 pages. But he said that he would have preferred to read the real version of the book so now we will try to find good books for him when we are coming back home. He likes very much to read.



Today – Saturday –  Stephen is sitting at our table here writing a little story about a day at school and soon he will hand it over to me so I can publish  it here on the blog. Stephen’s father is working as a chef in Subira house and all together there are five children in his family.

The salaries are very low in Kenya so it is not easy for a family to pay the school fees for five. In this case it is only four children because the eldest girl does not want to study. She prefers getting married. She was born in 1990.  Although there are four left and the two eldest are girls and they have applied to go to the university in Mombasa.

This family is a Christian family so they go to church every Sunday. Stephen’s mother, Grace, has no work outside her home so she tries to earn some money at home, where she has a little grocery shop in one of the rooms. Furthermore she has poultry and before she also had some goats. Stephen’s younger brother is called Philip and he is the youngest child in the family, born in 1998. The father earns less than 1500 Swedish crowns and I can tell you that it is almost impossible to survive on such a salary.


This is the story that Stephen has written on Saturday the 29th of January 2011:

A day at school

My mother usually wakes me up early in the morning at six o´clock to prepare my self for school.First I visit the frog´s kingdom to brush my teeth and take a bath. No sooner had I finished brushing my teeth that I take my finger licking meal that my mother had prepared for breakfast. Then my mother gives me small amount of pocketmoney which I use it to buy some snacks that are sold in our school. My school is not too far so I use about ten minutes to reach at school. At school we first use fifteen minutes for sweeping the compound. When we finish cleaning a bell is rung for the first lesson wich is mathematics. A lesson usually takes thirty five minutes. After the recommended minutes has elaps a bell is rung for the next lesson which is English then Kiswahili. After the three lessons a bell is rung for break which takes twenty minutes. We usually do our assembly on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,  which depends on how long the headmaster will talk because the headmaster might have a lot of words to say.

After break we enter in for next lesson which is science then school studies. At twelve oclock we go for lunch which takes one hour. Then at two come back for the afternoon section. At afternoon we have two breaks, which the first one we call the short game which takes fifteen minutes then at five o´clock in the evening a bell is rung for going home. Before going home first we do small assembly to remind the nursery kids to come early tomorrow, and then we leave for home.”

I am writing it exactly as Stephan has written the original with the errors but I think that even with some errors this writing shows that Stephen is a very bright young man of 15 and that he is a very good student with ambitions for his future and it will be a pleasure for us to support him through the school and hopefully also at the university. English is a second language for Stephen since Swahili is his first language.

Now we are looking for sponsors for his two sisters and his younger brother, Philip, who will be 13 this year.
In the blog you will find a photo of Stephen when he was reading Jules Vernes in our living room in Subira house.

Please feel welcome to sponsor a child from this very nice and hard working family.



En vecka i Shela


Här kommer en hälsning från Gunilla och Anders.

En liten misslycka hände kvällen innan deras utflykt på en vecka till Shela. Bilden som ni ser nedan kom fram, men texten inte. Sånt händer ibland.

Nu kan ingen text skickas, för uppkopplingen till Internet på Internetcaféet i Shela är uselt och har dessutom minutpris.

Så här skrev Gunilla på söndagen:
”Imorgon ska vi till den vita sandstranden Shela i en vecka så vi åker från Lamu stad och det tar uppemot en halvtimme med båt till Shela. Vi ska bo precis vid stranden och vi glädjer oss.”

Och om vädret:
”Här är riktigt hett och idag har det varit förfärligt uppemot fyrtio grader.”


Greetings from Gunilla and Anders. They are staying in Shela for a week.

Web Master Elsi


It is morning in Subira House. All people who work here (they are six) are very busy cleaning the house, sweeping the floors and washing the dishes.

We have just been served breakfast. Home baked bread with butter and jam made of mango. I made also jam of passion fruit, which we also have in the morning. We also get eggs, boiled or fried and homemade yoghurt which is delicious and finally we get fruit salad made of mango, papaya, pineapple and bananas. I dare say that the breakfast is very good and the service is excellent.


This house is very beautiful.

It was built in 1810 by the governor of the Sultan of Zanzibar. In those days, Lamu was under the rule of Zanzibar. The governor’s main task was to ensure that the inhabitants of Lamu paid taxes to the Sultan. The man must have earned a lot of money to be able to build a building like Subira House, which has one ground floor with four courtyards open against the sky and a lot of other rooms.

According to my opinion the governor has certainly had blood on his hands trading with slaves, but that is only what I think. I have not studied any reliable sources to prove it.

Our apartment – the former harem – is situated on the ground floor and has one courtyard, a very long living room with a sofa corner, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, which both are ecological. You pour ashes into the toilet which extincts what is in there. Hopefully it is working. There is no drainage in Lamu town.

We also have our own kitchen, quite a big one. From floor to roof there are more or less six meters so the rooms are very airy and air condition is not badly needed like in other places.

On the first floor, there are several rooms for guests. Many of the guests are from Sweden since the owners are a Swedish-Dutch couple. They have a Web Site on the Internet with the name of Subira House so that they can be found.

Finally, there is a second floor in the house, which is very nice with a view to the sea. Opposite Subira House, the fort from the 18th century is situated. All around the house there are small alleys where people walk and children play. There are donkeys transport goods and small shops. Below Subira House there is the market place where they sell fruit and vegetables, meat and fish.


When we arrived here, we were not vegetarians but as things are now, we do not touch meat any more.

On our first and only visit to the meat market, we saw the slaughtered bodies of the big animals hanging down from the roof full of flies. The animals are slaughtered in the morning and thereafter directly transported to the meat market.

The fish market is beside the meat market, and it does not look better there when it comes to flies. Therefore, it is easy to become a vegetarian here, as both these places are so disgusting so I feel like puking when passing there. We eat vegetables, eggs and fruit instead of meat and fish.

Around the market place, there are a lot of people. There are two very big old trees with benches around where the men of the island are sitting talking to each other. The other day I asked two of the men if I could take a photo of them; the result you can see here. So far, I have not yet asked the women for a photo, but soon I will when I will be acquainted to someone. Many people greet you when they see you. Jambo is the Swahili word for hello.

Some evenings they show some propaganda on a big screen. Last week a prophet – quite fanatic – appeared on the screen and many people were watching him and listening with interest. The people of this island seem to be very religious.

Now I will leave you, since I am going with Anders to the tailor to see if his new shirt will fit him. We left the material to the tailor yesterday and he told us that he would be ready already today with the shirt, which will make Anders look like a new man. The shirt is blue and white in a very thin material made of cotton.
He might attract the women of the island. Who knows?

It is very hot today – between 35-40 degrees Celsius. Before noon, we have to leave Subira House.



Here two elderly gentlemen enjoying themselves at the bench
at the market place.

There are not only donkeys at this island but also goats.



Lamu Town, Subira House 17th January 2011 

Today is a normal day. Everything is open as for example the market. This morning two ladies appeared at our breakfast table. They were trying to sell henna tattoos. They did not appear at the right time of the day as I want to have my breakfast in peace without having to decide whether to buy something or not. 

The weather is the same every day with temperatures between 35-40 degrees Celsius, which is quite hot for us. So far we have been in Subira House for a week and we have not yet been to the beach. We are in no hurry. The disadvantage with living in Lamu town is the flies. There are lots of them the whole day outside and inside. I guess that the reason is the donkeys which do attract flies. Where animals are also flies appear. It is the same in all countries.

We spend our days walking in town, visiting a few places having coffee, beer and food. One of these places is called Palace hotel and it is situated right at the waterfront with a view to the sea. Many restaurants here have Muslim owners and therefore they do not serve any kind of alcohol, but in some places they provide it anyhow if you ask for it.

I enclose a few pictures which I took when we were sitting at the veranda of Palace hotel. One of the waiters is a Maasai and you can see how beautifully he is dressed at the picture. He is also a very nice guy. Before taking pictures of people one must ask them for their permission. The boats are sailing to different places with tourists who go fishing and diving. Some of them go to swim at Shela beach, which seems to be the most luxurious and expensive place in the island of Lamu.

Now I am closing my letter box for this time as we are going to sit at the waterfront to avoid the flies which I cannot accept having on me and around me all over the body, but we have to blame the donkeys. It is their fault.


One of the waiters at the hotel is a Maasai and dressed in a traditional way.


These images are taken when we were sitting having a beer at
a hotel called Palace. They are from Waterfront, which is a
meeting place at Lamu where many people come. The
motives show daily life and people passing outside the hotel.




Going shopping

This morning I felt like going to a shop to have a look at fabrics, so a young lady offered me to accompany me to a certain shop to avoid me having to pay double prices.

Off we went in the hot morning sun and when we came into the dark shop in an alley, it was full of clients, women dressed in different kind of veils both in black and different bright colours. Many Muslim women are more interested in fashion than Christian women and they are keen on being dressed in a beautiful manner according to their own fashion and taste.

There are many different ways to wear the veil – something I noticed in the shop. In that shop they had a lot of material in beautiful bright colours of different quality, also silk. It was really impressing. Finally I bought two different fabrics, meant for kangas but I am going to use it to have a dress made by a tailor. I will – later on – when the dress is ready make a photo of me in it. It is going to be a long dress.

In this shop there were also pearls of different kinds, probably in glass. They were meant to be decoration on the veils and clothes and they were really beautiful.

When we were ready to pay the shop assistant asked whether the material was meant for “that mama” that seemed to be me and my young friend said that I only paid it and that the material was meant for her. So the price was then different, i.e. lower. She told the man that she borrowed money from me until she would get her monthly salary. Elderly people are called mama and papa in many African countries like here as well. We are used to that since last year.

Outside the shop, in the narrow alley, there were lots of donkeys on the street so we had to make ourselves very thin and stop at the pavement. One man had his two small children in front of him on the donkey. All three of them were riding. The donkeys seem to be very obedient to their owners who command them in a low but determined voice and with different sounds. I have read somewhere that there are more than seven thousand donkeys in this town but each of them has got an owner so they are not abandoned at all.