The Dhow revival project shows that sustainable and long term tourist business has to be integrated with local and global concerns for cultural and environmental conservation and pro-poor community development.
A medium to large sized dhow (56 ft.) in an eroded state has been identified, purchased and refurbished. The dhow has been moved to the premises of the Nat. Museum of Lamu, which act as the facilitator of the project. The restorations are finalized and set into tourist traffic. Part of the revenue will be allocated to projects at Lamu.
The Renovation boost the local handicraft tradition, give work to young people eager to learn their own traditions, be an ideal framework for storytelling and knowledge about the environment, history and traditions, both to the local community and visitors
The project shows that sustainable and long term tourist business has to be integrated with local and global concerns for cultural and environmental conservation and pro-poor community development. If this is not done, tourism will become a degrading force with negative effect on local development and destroy the unique historical, cultural and environmental base which constitutes Lamu as a world wide attraction.
The project constitutes a unique collaboration between the tourist business and cultural and environmental agents, i.e. the National Museum of Kenya (also the local Lamu museum), UNESCO through NWHO, and a corporate sector company, Basecamp Explorer.
Lamu provides the best example of an Arab town representing the Swahili culture in East Africa that has kept intact its original layout and its overall appearance, while maintaining its cultural practices, thus perpetuating a traditional legacy that is as old as the town itself. At one time in its 800 years long history Lamu had a prominent position and even controlled the Indian Ocean Trade. Knowledge of sea and seafaring vessels has been of utmost importance and represents a clue to the understanding of the history as well as the living culture.
The traditional transport vessels and fishing boats of the East African coast owe its historical roots to the Oman-Persian-Arabic-Indian coastal communities and boatbuilding traditions. It is reaching back several hundreds of years. Besides the traces of the South Asian trade caravans that penetrated into Africa and pushed on towards the North African countries to establish Islamic communities, the dhow based communities on Islands such as Zanzibar, Pemba and Lamu make up perhaps the most obvious and visible proof of early cultural x-change between South Asia and East Africa.
On Lamu, the values of the Swahili culture are strongly attached to maintaining the traditional knowledge of dhow-building. It is also a fact that the preservation of traditional knowledge relates intensely to the conservation and sustainability of cultures as well as biodiversity.
Boat building - Swahili style!
To nurture and develop key parts of the Swahili culture, the Lamu Boat Building School was initiated by the Basecamp Foundation, along with partners UNESCO, the National Museum of Kenya and the Strømme Foundation, and with technical support from the Scandinavian companies Elvstrøm and Simrad.
Local youth learn the art of building, renovating and restoring classic Swahili dhows at the school. The boats are used in Basecamp's eco-tourism programs, creating jobs and income that in turn supports the school – a creative win-win situation!