Details of Vintage Dubai Town Built by Materials From Lamu [PHOTOS]

  • The sand-fringed coastlines of Arabic towns including the infamous city of the United Emirates Dubai, Old Dubai town were built using mangroves from Lamu, Kenya. 

    Dubai Old Town’s dusty plains rise into the limestone folds in an area located at the shadows of Dubai’s skyscraper city.

    The Dubai Old Town is filled with low-rise apartments, most of which are five to seven stories tall and feature one-of-a-kind classic Arabian-style architecture. 

    This maze of twisting valleys and deep canyons reveals a historical expertise that can be traced to Kenya’s coastline, especially in Lamu. 

    Old Town Dubai

    An image of the Old town Dubai shopping center taken in September 2018.

    Wikimedia Commons

    Although there is not much agriculture and mangrove planting in Lamu today, it remains one of the longest-established and best-preserved Swahili settlements in east Africa that still exists today.

    The Kenyan Government, however, prohibited the export of mangrove poles in 1982 citing environmental concerns.

    Mangrove forests in Kenya represent approximately three per cent of the natural forest cover.

    Lamu has well over 40 important historic sites and monuments, some dating back over thousand years. Many of these still stand as isolated town ruins, testimony that they must have once been large and prosperous urban centres. 

    The richness of the local Swahili community’s arts, culture, and architecture, can still be seen today in towns like Lamu and Patte, reflecting their historical affluence.

    Besides the eye-catching skyscrapers, and the 5-star hotels in Dubai, the old town of Dubai, similar to Lamu, is distinguished by narrow streets and magnificent stone buildings with impressive curved doors.

    These remote corners have been influenced by a unique fusion of Swahili, Arabic, Persian and Indian building styles.

    Strikingly alike, the only way forward is on foot, by mule or by all-terrain vehicle. 

    After climbing for 20 more kilometers through steep switchbacks, a tiny cluster of homes seemingly suspended on a cliff’s edge appears across a canyon.

    This is Al Sogara: an isolated village carved into the mountainside where people have lived for more than 500 years.

    Dubai’s old town was where the city’s life began. The Salty water canal in the town, established in the 18th century as a small fishing village, was the main channel for trade.

    The area is popular with tenants and tourists because it is an affordable place with great views of the majestic Bhuj Khalifa and is within walking distance of the popular Dubai Mall.

    “Professionals can teach you about the history of the exotic blends. This is a nice iconic place to enjoy your breakfast in a relaxing atmosphere with views of the historic buildings,” a tourist with thrillophilia stated after a visit to the town. 

    For many centuries, mangroves were exploited and traded along the East African coast and Lamu’s unique cultural heritage similar to Dubai’s old town was in no small measure due to mangrove exploitation.

    Old Town

    An image of Old town Dubai in October 2017.

    Lili valentine

    Although the Dubai city is considered one of UAE’s most breath-taking backdrops, few travellers ever reach old town. 

    “Although most tourists prefer the city, some come to old town to visit retail shops and explore the fascinating collection of ornaments made from precious metals such as gold, diamond, and silver, “a tourist with thrillophilia stated. 

    For thousands of years, maritime trade served as a gateway through which two cultural streams – African and Arab/Asian – had infused to produce the coastal lifestyle.  

    The exports had greater consequences than just an improvement in the local economy of Lamu and Dubai. It created a whole new civilisation.

    Many of the old buildings in Dubai and Lamu carry a long history that represents the development of Swahili building technology, based on coral, lime, and mangrove poles.

    As a result of a strategic focus on tourism and luxury, Dubai grew rapidly in the twenty-first century, and over time into the lavish city. 

    Old Town

    A photo collage of images of old town Dubai in 2019.


Jay Ndungu

Jay is a computer scientist and journalist with a passion for the intersection of technology and society. He has a background in computer science, developing a deep understanding of the technical aspects of the industry, including programming languages and software development methodologies. Currently, He writes for Nairobi Times, covering a wide range of topics including technology, politics, sports, and entertainment. With his unique combination of technical knowledge and journalistic experience, Jay brings a unique perspective to the stories he covers, able to explain complex technical concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. His work is dedicated to bridge the gap between technology and society, and to make people more aware of the potential of technology to make the world a better place.

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