Maulidi, a week-long celebration of Muhammad’s birth, sees the entire town involved in processions and dances, and draws in pilgrims from all over East Africa and the Indian Ocean. For faithful participants, the Lamu Maulidi is so laden with baraka (blessings) that some say two trips to Lamu are worth one to Mecca in the eyes of God. If you can possibly arrange it, this is the occasion to be in Lamu, but unless you make bookings, you’ll need to arrive at least a week in advance to have any hope of getting a room.
The other principal festival of the year is the Lamu Cultural Festival held in November to promote Swahili culture and heritage. With donkey and dhow racing, swimming, dancing and traditional craft displays, including carving, dhow-building, embroidery and henna decoration – all of it fairly competitive – the festival engages the town for the best part of a week.
A more recent initiative, the Lamu Yoga Festival (lamuyoga.org) in March brings together several hundred people, and yoga teachers from around the world, for four days of classes in different yoga styles in idyllic settings around Lamu town, Shela and Manda.