One Christmas, long ago, we went to Lamu, one of Kenya’s Indian Ocean islands. Our trip there was as peaceful as this image suggests, although the nearby mainland has long been preyed on by gangs of Somali Shifta. This then is an idyll with hidden angles, some of them tragic. But for now, please enjoy these Lamu dhows with their triangular lateen sails in this gentle display of synchronised sailing along the Manda Strait.
You could say that Swahili culture was born of the monsoon winds, from the human drive to trade and of prevailing weather. For two thousand years Arab merchants plied East Africa’s Indian Ocean shores, from Mogadishu (Somalia) to the mouth of the Limpopo River (Mozambique), arriving with the north easterly Kaskazi, departing on the south easterly Kusi. They came in great wooden cargo dhows, bringing dates, frankincense, wheat, dried fish, Persian chests, rugs, silks and jewels which they traded with Bantu farmers in exchange for the treasures of Africa: ivory, leopard skins, rhinoceros horn, ambergris, tortoise shell, mangrove poles and gold.
copyright 2014 Tish Farrell Culture: The Swahili
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