In Summary
  • Mkunguni Square is part of the Lamu Fort Museum which was taken over by the National Museums of Kenya in 1984.
  • Mkunguni Square is situated right in the middle of the Lamu Old Town which was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2001.
  • Visitors, who find it hard to manouvre the narrow streets of the town, use Mkunguni Square as the central meeting point.

Mkunguni Square in Lamu Old Town has become the oldest meeting point in the county for people from all walks of life.

The name ‘Mkunguni’ was inspired by the Mkungu tree which has existed in the area for centuries.

Mkunguni Square is part of the Lamu Fort Museum which was taken over by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in 1984.

The Lamu Fort’s construction started in 1813, shortly after Lamu’s victory over Pate and Mombasa in the battle of Shella and was completed in 1821.

Upon completion, the fort marked the southern end of the original stone town and served as a garrison for the Baluchi soldiers (from India) who were sent by the Sultan of Oman.

MEETING POINT

The protective presence of the fort encouraged new development around it and by 1900 it had become a social centre for the community, a role it still plays to date.

According to Lamu Cultural Promotional Group Chairman Ghalib Alwy, Mkunguni Square became a crucial meeting point almost over 100 years ago.

“In fact, it started functioning when our elders converged at the square to meet the Sultan Zahidi Ngumi who visited the region for the first time. Since then, it’s being used for similar purposes,” says Mr Alwy.

Mkunguni Square is situated right in the middle of the Lamu Old Town which was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2001.

Visitors, who find it hard to manouvre the narrow streets of the town, use Mkunguni Square as the central meeting point.

CROWDED

Mr Charles Harrison, a tourist, says it is easier to meet at Mkunguni Square than anywhere else since the place is not very crowded and is in the middle of the town.

“It’s a cool place. I am new to this place but Mkunguni Square has been of great help since it’s where I have meeting my friends,” says Harrison.

Apart from Mkunguni Square and the Lamu Fort, the region also boats of a museum. The Lamu Museum is a cultural and architectural jewel on Lamu Island.

One of the reasons that led to its enlistment as UNESCO world heritage site is because of the town’s important religious functions that continue to be a significant centre for education in Islamic and Swahili culture.

Another reason was because the town’s historical architecture preserves the importance of human interactions, which have come together over hundreds of years, in a bid to create a distinct culture.

WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Lamu is also the best example of the growth and decline of East Africa’s seaports, a reason which also contributed to its enlistment as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lamu Consists of over 40 individual towns or ‘mitaa’ with a main business street which is literally the town main street separating the old stone town from the comparatively recent 21th century seafront.

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