The term “Swahili architecture” is used to describe a wide variety of distinct building traditions that are currently or were formerly employed along Africa’s eastern and south-eastern shores. The swahili architecture is common in the Kenyan tourism hub towns along the Indian Ocean coast. Swahili stone architecture is a unique locally produced item as a result of changing social and religious traditions, environmental changes, and urban growth rather than being plainly derivation of Islamic architecture from the Arabic world. Kenya safari tours to the region enjoy both the culture and the rich history of the swahili architecture.
History is interlinked and interconnected, creating complex frameworks that cannot be divided into separate stylistic components. Near the port of Mali in southern Kenya, a number of magnificent ruins from the so-called “golden age” of Swahili architecture may still be seen.
Kenya Safari to the swahili culture
The Swahili-built homes, pillar tombs, mosques, and other stone structures which can be seen all along East Africa’s coastline. It is today one of the major tourist attractions of the region, Swahili architecture is characterised by the materiality of local corallimestone, which also serves as a practical answer to both human needs and the physical environment. In addition to stone, mangrove poles and coral rag are frequently utilised as raw materials to construct intricate stone structures. The ornate patterns on the building’s façade are inspired by immigrants from Arabia and India as well as a variety of cultures from the continent of Africa. Buildings are shielded from the severe monsoon seasons by a variety of designs on their roofs and windows.
Swahili doors are the most distinctive regional elements of this style of building. Doorframe patterns and motifs can be divided into two categories. Straight lintels on rectangular frames indicate an older Swahili design, whereas arched lintels were more common in the latter nineteenth century. A carved Arabic inscription, such as a verse from the Quran or information about the householder, is frequently found in the centre of the lintel. Because of this, doors frequently play a significant role in enhancing and expressing the social position of the homeowner.
Urban Swahili settlements are separated into pieces called mitaa and are surrounded by city walls. In Swahili, mitaa are made-up, symbolic neighbourhoods that locals use to define their social identities. Every mitaa revolves around a mosque. Each mitaa’s social standing can be inferred from the kinds of structures and activities that have been uncovered by archaeological digs.
A typical Swahili house is built around a self-contained central courtyard on the inside. Because the owners’ living space is divided from the public environment, privacy in home life is cherished. A blank wall that obscures the view of the interior courtyard is the focus of an interior porch. Additionally, courtyards help to keep a building’s interior cool.
The most visited tourist town in Kenya is Lamu known for its rich Swahili culture and Tourism .The oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Kenya is Lamu, which is also one of the best-preserved Swahili architectural archaeological monuments. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the seat of Lamu County government. Lamu, once a hub of East African trade, is a multi-ethnic city with a Muslim majority. The Lamu archipelago includes the well-known ex-Swahili city states of Lamu, Sheila, Pate, Manda, and Siyu.
Lamu known for its second to none Kenya safari accommodation facilities is the best place to relax and enjoy the tranquillity of the Kenyan coast especially after and great safari tour. The houses and the town of Lamu are facing Mecca’s Kaaba in the north. Since the founders and the majority of the population of Lamu were Muslims, this attitude is a product of religion. The mitaa that make up Lamu Town are Mkomani, Langoni, Gardeni, Kashmiri, and Bombay.
Lamu’s Stone Town was formerly known as Mkomani. The stone-built historical structures are still standing today. The people who live in Mkomani see themselves as Lamu’s founders, elite, and ruling class. They identify more as being “Arab-ness” than “African-ness.”
“Newcomers” or “strangers” live in Langoni, which is south of Lamu. The primary building materials for the homes are mud and thatch. After a significant fire in 1982, the homes were rebuilt using coral stone blocks and corrugated iron sheets.
The region where Lamu is located is called Gardeni, which is on the western side of the sand dune.
The southern Lamu region includes the expanding towns of Kashmiri and Bombay.
Due to the lack of distinguishing characteristics like domes or minarets, mosques in Lamu resemble residences extremely closely. A mosque in Lamu has three main architectural components: the Musalla, the Mihrab, and the Mimbar. The Riyadha Mosque, which Habib Salih constructed in 1990, is one of Lamu’s most important mosques. The birthday of Prophet Mohamed is celebrated there with the largest Mawlid in Lamu.
Why you should visit pate Island’s Shanga settlement.
A Kenyan safari rich in history, Shanga is a historic Swahili town made of mud and thatch that was situated on the south side of Pate Island close to Lamu and dates back to the middle of the eighth century AD. Before going extinct in the early 15th century, the Swahili people in Shanga had survived there for 600 years. The first community was built around a well in the middle of a depression in the sand dunes that was 150 metres from the sea. Over time, the well’s placement didn’t change. On top of the centre enclosure, a primitive timber mosque that served as a community gathering place was erected. Early to mid-tenth century saw the introduction of stone construction thanks to a technique for extracting porites coral from the sea floor.
Most of the adult male population can pray inside the new stone mosque. The first stone graves, made of facing coral and plaster, are located all around the Mosque.
Archaeologist Mark Horton claims that all of the stone buildings still standing in Shanga are one-story structures with walls made of coral rag and lime that are between 0.38 and 0.45 metres thick. Walls are situated in a 0.4 m-deep foundation trench. The specialisation of weaving, leather work, and textile production is evidenced by archaeological artefacts that have been excavated. The division of social identities is reflected in the mitaa (or deme, to use Horton’s terminology) organisational structure of the town of Shanga.
Deme A: For agriculturalists with components of ironworking, in the north. Iron slag and furnaces are plentiful, although there are very few stone constructions.
Deme B: For pastoralists, in the east. Large stone enclosures (perhaps for the care of animals, with dung accumulations) and multi-room homes are major locations.
Deme C: For maritime tradesmen, in the south. There are numerous uniform stone buildings with little to no concentration of guest rooms. On the settlement’s seaward side, this group is located.
Deme D: For craftsmen, in the west. Most of them are stone homes with unusual floor plans that appear to have been modified from workshops. The area has a concentration of tanning pits, spindle whorls, and bead-making machinery.
Old City Mombasa is a coastal settlement on the Indian Ocean in southeast Kenya. Mombasa is rapidly losing its identity as a Swahili Town due to diverse influences from groups like the Omanis, Arabs, Portuguese, and Indians.
In response to the difficult monsoon environment, Mombasa’s traditional Swahili architecture displays distinctive methods on both the building and urban scales. Arched doors, wooden shutter windows that are partially open for daylight, extended balconies, and barazas (low stone or concrete benches) attached to the main building façade are all significant architectural features.