Chic & Sleek | The Majlis, Lamu Island, Kenya

By Dian Hasan | May 29, 2010

The Majlis Lamu is a small, luxury beach resort located on the exclusive Manda Island facing the world-renowned Lamu archipelago on Kenya’s North Coast (East Africa). The Majlis combines 25 superbly-appointed suites in 4 villas, in understated elegance reflecting Lamu’s rich local tradition and style. All villas boast large bedrooms with a king-size bed draped in netting, generous en-suite bathrooms, private veranda, air-conditioning, electric fans, safe, and internet key connection (available upon request). Each villa opens onto the white sand beach and boasts a private veranda with panoramic sea views.

Accessible only by boat, a 10-minute ride from Lamu Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, The Majlis feels more like a private villa in Bali, what with the swaying palm trees, the smell of fresh ocean air and the tropical breeze. A wonderful ambience matched by an equally captivating people with their age-old and deeply-rooted culture of hospitality.

Rooms are spacious with traditionally high, beamed ceilings, large windows and terraces with spectacular views of the beach, garden, swimming pools and Indian Ocean. Each villa was constructed making use of the archipelago’s natural resources, combining white coral blocks with hand-carved timber. Particular attention was paid to integrating the villas among the indigenous trees and plants, to enhance the preserve the beauty of the local surroundings.

The Majlis offers everything needed for a perfectly relaxing and peaceful holiday, from the open-sided restaurant serving outstanding international cuisine, to the bar, the beautiful pools and the Spa treatments.

Over a thousand years of East African, Omani, Yemeni, Indian, Portuguese and Victorian British influences have all left their mark on Lamu Island, in the architecture, the language and the very essence of the place. In bustling Lamu, winding alleys lead past the intricate carved doorways of white stone houses –some of which are truly majestic and still home to the very wealthy. And, because the alleys are too narrow to be negotiated by cars, the modern world has had little visible impact on this historic town.

Life appears little changed since Lamu was a busy port town in the 14th century, donkeys remain the preferred local mode of transport, and the streets are lit by lanterns after nightfall. Spices and the smell of grilled food scent the air around the markets, mosques, museums, fort and ancient houses, and exploring Lamu on foot – or donkey – is a treat for all the sense.

Manda Island
The airstrip for Lamu Island is on Manda Island, and visitors reach Lamu by boat. Manda itself is also fascinating. Huge baobab trees dominate the skyline, and the ruins of Takwa, a 16th-century Swahili settlement can be found after negotiating a thick mangrove swamp. This unspoilt island, which has been visited by Arab traders in their dhows for centuries, lies in calm inshore waters on a long protected beach of white sand. There are creeks and other tiny islands to explore, and big game fishing can be arranged.

Kiwayu
Furthest north in the Lamu archipelago is the lovely island of Kiwayu. This remote paradise is also dominated by giant baobab trees, and its beaches are believed to be amongst the best in Kenya.

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