Donkeys and Dhows

15 Jan

Dreaming in Arabic

The muezzin’s voice, amplified through a sound system, jolts me from a restless sleep. Soon other muezzin joins in. Every voice is amplified to the point where it sounds distorted, angry, irritated. There is no trace of the gentle, musical lilt the call to prayer in the UAE contains. Yet, despite this unexpectedly harsh intrusion of technology, life on Lamu Island still moves at a pace that is in step with the past: slow and relaxed.

Life has not changed much in this corner of the Swahili Coast of East Africa. There still is no air-pollution, traffic jams or honking car horns. Here donkeys and dhows are the modes of transport. Men while away hours and hours sitting around talking. There is much to talk about these days: the terrorist attacks by al-Shabaab on the mainland; the slump in the tourist trade; the impact of the port slated to be built not far from the…

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