Jannah Lamu

Shela Village, Lamu Island
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Jannah Lamu
Shela Village, Lamu Island

“With gorgeous indoor-outdoor spaces and a rooftop bar with the best views in Lamu, this is a chic hideaway for a new wave of travellers – both Kenyan and international.”

This stylish new ‘constellation hotel’ is centred around the old village square in fashionable Shela and offers a choice of Swahili-chic accommodation across seven diverse suites and apartments. It’s the perfect choice for couples or solo travellers looking for a charismatic and authentic Lamu retreat.

All About Jannah Lamu

Setting the Scene

Lamu is the best-preserved 14th-century Swahili settlement on the Kenyan coast with its coral stone mansions and mosques; the hub of a maritime trade route between Africa, Arabia, India and China for centuries. Trade was dependent on the prevailing monsoon, and the lateen-rigged dhows are as much part of the landscape of Lamu, which is the name, not just of the Old Town but also of the island and archipelago, as the gondola of Venice or the felucca of Aswan. Shela, an outlying village some 4 miles from Lamu Town, borders an empty coastline of dune and reef and is the magnetised hive for holidaymakers. Jannah comprises four residences, including one rooftop Honeymoon Suite, within the tallest tower on the skyline, boasting far-reaching views over the archipelago and equally high levels of comfort. Jannah luxuries, such as air conditioning and sharp service, are a rarity here, but with bedrooms open to the breezes and rooftop alfresco yoga, this oasis offers an allure that is not so much about sophistication as it is about peace and simplicity.

The backstory

Jannah is the latest hospitality project by Anna Trzebinski, a Kenyan-raised designer and entrepreneur whose art-filled Nairobi home is now part of Hemingway Resorts. She vacationed in Lamu as a child, in the days when there was no fuel, no electricity and no cars. Jannah, which means Paradise in Swahili, is her attempt to recreate that unbridled sense of freedom that living so close to nature offers. It is also a bid to find a professional footing with her life partner, a fisherman from Lamu, who heads up the dhow charter enterprise.

The rooms

This is a glamorised Hollywood version of a traditional Swahili palace with a scented walled garden, buffed and glowing plaster walls, and intricate carved niches for collected treasures called zidaka. Local artists and artefacts provide texture and colour throughout the three two-bedroom ensuites and Penthouse, with stocked kitchens and romantic four-poster Lamu beds. Coloured glass windowpanes filter the strong sunlight and are positioned and angled to allow for the flow of cooling monsoon winds. The polished interior aesthetic extends to the Jannah shop on the ground level, where some signature furnishings (the beaded candlesticks and throws that embellish the interiors) are for sale.

Food and drink

The Signature Jannah breakfast is served on the roof terrace of The Pink House; the adjacent B&B is the more budget-conscious element of the so-called Jannah “constellation’ – a trio of hotels and residences, with the third hotel opening later this year. Served on individual sandalwood trays, homemade healthy choices include tamarind juice, granola, yoghurts and mango jam. There is a spicier Swahili breakfast option also on demand otherwise Anna likes to encourage her guests to eat in the many different restaurants and cafes around the village, including, in due course, Cultiva, an offshoot of the popular Nairobi restaurant, which will be opening alongside the Jannah hotel by the end of the year. Alcohol is not sold on the premises as it is a Muslim community, but can be pre-ordered from the wine supplier.

Wellness

Lamu has energy, innate mysticism, and a connection to the natural world, making it a spiritual Mecca for healers, seers, and yogis who come to Jannah for private sessions. Lamu Handmade Spa is nearby, offering facials and a 90-minute organic massage. There are also daily yoga classes at Banana House.

The neighbourhood

Jannah is at the hub of Shela village life next to the main square, sandy and shaded by a tropical almond, where school children collect in the afternoons to kick around a ball, where free-range chickens scratch, and donkeys are tethered. It’s also the retail heart of Shela with a treasure trove of kaftans for sale at Aman, bags from recycled sailcloth at Ali Lamu (next to handmade ice creams) and a selection of jewellery and Anna’s designs at Jannah. The little harbour and the beach are all within walking distance, and while the sandy car-free alleyways hum with life in the day, after the 9pm and Call to Prayer, a hush descends on the village houses.

The service

Ann, the head housekeeper, manages a tight ship with immaculate housekeeping services – the kind that returns your underwear folded and colour-coded. The floors are clean enough to eat off, and nothing is too much trouble. The private dhows are managed by Captain Smiley and an equally charming crew who will transform the morning exercise of a swim in the channel into a memorable event with a tray of dates and cardamon spiced coffee, laundered kikoys and a fishing rod.

For families

Two-bedroom residences are perfect for families and children over the age of 10 who will enjoy the freedom of exploring the lagoons and inlets of the outlying islands on the private dhows and the safe playground that is the carless streets of Shela.

Eco effort

Anna respects the needs of the community by supporting local enterprises, not selling alcohol, and desisting from creating a swimming pool complete with bikini-clad devotees that might offend. Environmentally responsible practices are encouraged, from solar-powered energy to recycling and composting, and all shampoos and soaps are biodegradable, organic and locally produced. A visit to the farm that makes these is an unusual afternoon ‘experience’. Every detail of Jannah is Made in Kenya, including the fashion brands in the retail outlet. The Jannah eco- ethos spreads from the fair-trade coffee at the breakfast table to fair salaries and equal opportunities for women within the company.

Accessibility

There are no lifts at Jannah, and the Penthouse is a long way up the highest building in Shela.

Anything left to mention?

Transfer from the small local airport is by Jannah, a lovely wooden taxi-boat included in the price of your stay. A dhow trip should be part of your daily ritual on an island dictated by the fluctuating tides. To sail through the mangrove channels of Manda Island to spot bobbing turtles and birdlife is a privilege granted to few, whilst the surf and pristine beaches of Kipungani are an adventurous day’s charter away.

Conde Nast Traveller

Summary
  • An alluring new boutique hideaway in the heart of cosmopolitan Shela
  • Designed with an airy contemporary bohemian aesthetic by Anna Trzebinski
  • Just moments from the seafront, beach and Peponi hotel
  • Enjoy spectacular views from Shela’s highest roof terrace or relax in the scented gardens
  • Explore the Lamu archipelago aboard Jannah’s beautifully-restored Mozambiquan sailing dhows
  • Discover the many historic, heritage and cultural attractions of Lamu, Manda and Pate islands
  • Yoga, massage, beauty therapies and all kinds of spa and wellness treatments available
  • Accommodates up to 20 guests across seven suites, apartments and rooms
Destination – Kenya Coast

Kenya’s beautiful Indian Ocean coast stretches for more than 300 miles (500 km) and feels a world away from ‘upcountry’ East Africa. The coast is fringed by white sand beaches, backed by coconut palms and towering sand dunes, interspersed with mangrove flats, ancient forests and sheltered coastal creeks and anchorages. Another marked contrast is its enduring and distinctive Swahili culture – a unique amalgam of African, Arabian, Indian and European influences – which reveal themselves in the coast’s religious and social traditions, food, architecture and many other aspects of daily life. Its towns and villages, sometimes bustling but often sleepy, remain tranquil, traditional and welcoming.

Kenya’s beaches and coastal waters are nesting sites and home to five endangered species of sea turtle. Offshore coral reefs shelter much of the coastline and provide a crucial habitat for a wonderful variety of marine life. Scuba diving and snorkelling provide a window into this extraordinary underwater world. Two of its most spectacular areas are within Marine National Parks off Watamu and Malindi – both are also world-renowned centres for deep sea fishing. South of Mombasa, Diani Beach is regularly voted one of the most beautiful in Africa. An adventure sports hub, renowned for kitesurfing, skydiving and ocean fishing, its coastal woodland has a large population of lively black-and-white Colobus monkeys.

Kenya’s coastal settlements house the historic remains of a network of ancient city states that stretched the length of the East African coast – from Mogadishu in the north to Mozambique Island in the south. These ports were the gateways for external trade with Africa – exporting slaves, ivory, tortoiseshell, animal hides, ambergris and other precious commodities to Arabia, Europe and across the Indian Ocean. Lamu Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the oldest living town south of the Sahara and the region’s best-preserved historic settlement. The ‘old town’ in Mombasa, Kenya’s second city and East Africa’s busiest port, is home to Fort Jesus – a magnificent Portuguese citadel built in the 1590s.

There are several scheduled flights daily from Nairobi to Lamu, Malindi, Vipingo, Mombasa and Diani/Ukunda. Safari destinations in the Masai Mara and Tsavo are also served by Mombasa’s Moi International Airport, as are Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. Mombasa also receives international flights from Dubai and Addis Ababa, and seasonal flights from Rome and Frankfurt. An alternative route to the Indian Ocean coast is via Kenya’s new Standard Guage Railway (SGR) which was completed in 2017 and connects Nairobi with Mombasa. The scenic 470 km (290 mile) journey takes around 6 hours by express train. Our travel team will be pleased to advise and plan your journey to the coast and beyond.

Location - Lamu

Tucked up against the beautiful, unspoilt northern Indian Ocean coast of Kenya, Lamu Island is one of the most beguiling places on earth.  Little changed in centuries, Lamu has long been renowned for the warmth of its welcome to visitors, its rich and colourful maritime trading history and its distinctive Swahili culture – a unique amalgam of African, Arabian, Indian and European influences. Unique and unpackaged, tranquil and traditional, sleepy yet sophisticated – in a world that is increasingly rushed and regimented, Lamu remains a wonderfully authentic and unhurried retreat.

Lamu is just 8 miles long and under 4 miles wide (less than 13 x 6 km) with few vehicles and no real roads, almost all transport is still by sailing dhow or motorboat, donkey or foot.  Lamu Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the oldest living town south of the Sahara and the best-preserved settlement in East Africa.  One of Lamu’s glories is its traditional Swahili Architecture – its unique stone townhouses, many dating from the early 18th Century, are celebrated for their intricately carved wooden front doors, imposing entrance porches and shady courtyards, the grandeur and elegance of their interiors and their beautiful decorative stucco plasterwork.

Simple yet stylish Shela Village sits two miles to the south of Lamu Town at the start of the island’s wonderful 8-mile beach. One of the most relaxing and seductive places you will ever visit, Shela has a languid, undisturbed atmosphere all its own.  In the past few years numerous ravishing holiday homes and guest houses have been built along the village’s pretty waterfront and jumble of narrow sandy streets. Beyond the legendary Peponi Hotel, centre of Shela social life, the beach stretches almost as far as the eye can see – miles of empty white sand facing the Indian Ocean and backed by magnificent dunes.

Getting to Lamu is easy – forcing yourself to leave can be harder.  Lamu is best accessed by air and there are several scheduled flights per day to and from Nairobi’s Wilson and JKIA airports.  Flights land at the airport on next door Manda Island. Manda is less than a mile away from Lamu and the boat trip across to Lamu Town or Shela Village takes only a few minutes.  Some flights also arrive or depart via Malindi or Mombasa.

In Detail

JANNAH HOUSE (4 suites – all with air-conditioned bedrooms)

Penthouse Suite

A one-bedroom suite on the Fourth Floor with a spacious master bedroom including a Super King bed. Beautifully decorated mixing contemporary interiors with traditional styles, this Suite is designed for ultimate ease and comfort. With a fully equipped kitchen, air-conditioned bedroom and outdoor & indoor living spaces, this is a one-of-a-kind, unique and immersive experience.

Kizingitini Suite

A two-bedroom suite on the Third Floor, beautifully decorated, with a captivating blend of modern and traditional aesthetics and minimalist Swahili design. It boasts extraordinary views of the archipelago, offering a near panoramic 360-degree vista. The living room is bright and airy, and the large kitchen is fully equipped with a dining table for four. The ensuite twin room and the master bedroom are both ensuite and air-conditioned.

Pate Suite

A two-bedroom suite on the Second Floor with its own fully equipped kitchen and beautiful living space. It has two air-conditioned bedrooms, a spacious living room, a small dining table with bar stools and a small kitchen. The Master Bedroom has a King bed and bathroom ensuite. The second room has a double bed with bathroom ensuite.

Faza Suite

A two-bedroom suite on the first floor, with its own fully equipped kitchen and beautiful living space. It has two air-conditioned bedrooms, a spacious living room, a small dining table with bar stools and a small kitchen. The Master Bedroom has a Super King bed that can be split into twin beds, and bathroom ensuite. The second room is a twin with a bathroom ensuite.

Jannah Boutique

On the Ground Floor of Jannah House is Anna Trzebinski’s boutique and lifestyle store. Drawing inspiration from her rich Kenyan heritage and global travels, she has curated a distinctive collection of handcrafted fashion pieces and unique home furnishings.

THE PINK HOUSE (1 suite and 2 bedrooms)

The Pink House has a beautiful Second Floor rooftop, featuring the communal dining area where guests are served breakfast as well as a separate lounging area to relax. Guests in the Pink House enjoy access to all other communal areas of the constellation.

Siyu Suite

The Siyu Suite is one bedroom suite on the First Floor with its own fully equipped kitchen and spacious living room, and dining space on the rooftop terrace. The bedroom includes a double bed with ensuite bathroom, ceiling fan and additional standing fans (no A/C). The bedroom and living room feature private verandas and village views.

Mkokoni Room

The Mkokoni Room is an individual bedroom located on the First Floor, with a kitchenette and small lounge area shared with the Kiwayu Room. Guests can enjoy communal dining on the rooftop which also offers a beautiful lounging area. The bedroom includes a double bed with ensuite bathroom, ceiling fan, and additional standing fan (no A/C). The bedroom and small living area have private verandas and picturesque village views.

Kiwayu Room

The Kiwayu Room is an individual bedroom located on the First Floor, with a kitchenette and small lounge area shared with the Mkokoni Room. Guests can enjoy communal dining on the rooftop which also offers a beautiful lounging area. The bedroom offers a double bed with ensuite bathroom, ceiling fan, and additional standing fan (no A/C). The bedroom and the small living area have private verandas and picturesque village views.

OUTSIDE SPACES

Jannah Roof Terrace

All guests have access to the spacious Fifth Floor roof terrace at Jannah House which has four separate seating areas and enjoys spectacular undisturbed views over Shela, Lamu Town and Manda Island, and across the channels, the mainland and the archipelago.

Scented Garden

Between the buildings is a communal “Contemplative Scented Garden” a lovely place to relax and embrace the energy of a traditional fragrant garden, typical in so many Arab-influenced cultures. It features three covered ‘baraza’ daybed areas and a Moroccan fountain.

Visitors' Book

“Shela Village is a bohemian hot spot and the new Jannah Lamu is buzzing with energy. This is the latest hospitality project of Kenyan designer-hotelier Anna Trzebinski, who has incorporated old village buildings and outdoor spaces into one innovative “constellation hotel.” It’s easy to shed layers of stress here, lulled by the sounds of Shela: children kicking around a football, calls to prayer, village elders putting the world to rights, and donkeys drinking from stone basins at the hotel’s bougainvillea-draped entrance. Jannah – now the highest building on the skyline – features Gaudí-esque curved windows and a vertiginous staircase tower, which connects the bedrooms to the penthouse and communal roof terrace. The Swahili-chic decor is punctuated with touches of glamour, and terraces overlook the wooden dhows on the bay—three of which are at the disposal of Jannah guests. The hotel also owns a canopied and cushioned barge, for languid day trips to distant dunes and islands, morning swims through the mangrove inlets where turtles like to surface, or shopping trips to vibrant Lamu Town just along the coast. Because as everyone who lives here knows, the essence of Swahili culture is inevitably best imbibed afloat.”

Financial Times

“Jannah’s penthouse, with its open terrace and views, is the stuff of honeymoons, kitted out with a billowy net-draped bed, cocktail shakers and beaded palm-tree candle holders. Traditional Islamic artisanal details add sophistication to contemporary Swahili interiors, in the form of lime-plaster polished floors, niches called zidaka, carved wooden doorways and ornate lattice screens. Its many windows catch whooshing monsoon winds, negating all need of mosquito nets or air-conditioning, although Jannah is almost unique in Shela for offering the latter.”

Conde Nast Traveller

Rates

Standard Season = 1st March to mid December
High Season = mid December to end February

JANNAH HOUSE

Penthouse Suite (accommodates up to 2 guests)
Standard Season
$560 per night
Peak Season
$660 per night

Kizingitini Suite, Pate Suite, Faza Suite (each accommodates up to 4 guests)
Standard Season
$550 per night for up to 2 guests
$100 per extra guest per night
Peak Season
$650 per night for up to 2 guests
$150 per extra guest per night

PINK HOUSE

Siyu Suite (accommodates up to 2 guests)
Standard Season
$280 per night
Peak Season
$340 per night

Kiwayu Room, Mkononi Room (each accommodates up to 2 guests)
Standard Season
$280 per night
Peak Season
$340 per night

All rates are on a ‘bed & breakfast’ basis

Please contact us for comprehensive information on rates, special offers, inclusions and exclusions, optional extras and terms & conditions of booking

 

All About Jannah Lamu

Setting the Scene

Lamu is the best-preserved 14th-century Swahili settlement on the Kenyan coast with its coral stone mansions and mosques; the hub of a maritime trade route between Africa, Arabia, India and China for centuries. Trade was dependent on the prevailing monsoon, and the lateen-rigged dhows are as much part of the landscape of Lamu, which is the name, not just of the Old Town but also of the island and archipelago, as the gondola of Venice or the felucca of Aswan. Shela, an outlying village some 4 miles from Lamu Town, borders an empty coastline of dune and reef and is the magnetised hive for holidaymakers. Jannah comprises four residences, including one rooftop Honeymoon Suite, within the tallest tower on the skyline, boasting far-reaching views over the archipelago and equally high levels of comfort. Jannah luxuries, such as air conditioning and sharp service, are a rarity here, but with bedrooms open to the breezes and rooftop alfresco yoga, this oasis offers an allure that is not so much about sophistication as it is about peace and simplicity.

The backstory

Jannah is the latest hospitality project by Anna Trzebinski, a Kenyan-raised designer and entrepreneur whose art-filled Nairobi home is now part of Hemingway Resorts. She vacationed in Lamu as a child, in the days when there was no fuel, no electricity and no cars. Jannah, which means Paradise in Swahili, is her attempt to recreate that unbridled sense of freedom that living so close to nature offers. It is also a bid to find a professional footing with her life partner, a fisherman from Lamu, who heads up the dhow charter enterprise.

The rooms

This is a glamorised Hollywood version of a traditional Swahili palace with a scented walled garden, buffed and glowing plaster walls, and intricate carved niches for collected treasures called zidaka. Local artists and artefacts provide texture and colour throughout the three two-bedroom ensuites and Penthouse, with stocked kitchens and romantic four-poster Lamu beds. Coloured glass windowpanes filter the strong sunlight and are positioned and angled to allow for the flow of cooling monsoon winds. The polished interior aesthetic extends to the Jannah shop on the ground level, where some signature furnishings (the beaded candlesticks and throws that embellish the interiors) are for sale.

Food and drink

The Signature Jannah breakfast is served on the roof terrace of The Pink House; the adjacent B&B is the more budget-conscious element of the so-called Jannah “constellation’ – a trio of hotels and residences, with the third hotel opening later this year. Served on individual sandalwood trays, homemade healthy choices include tamarind juice, granola, yoghurts and mango jam. There is a spicier Swahili breakfast option also on demand otherwise Anna likes to encourage her guests to eat in the many different restaurants and cafes around the village, including, in due course, Cultiva, an offshoot of the popular Nairobi restaurant, which will be opening alongside the Jannah hotel by the end of the year. Alcohol is not sold on the premises as it is a Muslim community, but can be pre-ordered from the wine supplier.

Wellness

Lamu has energy, innate mysticism, and a connection to the natural world, making it a spiritual Mecca for healers, seers, and yogis who come to Jannah for private sessions. Lamu Handmade Spa is nearby, offering facials and a 90-minute organic massage. There are also daily yoga classes at Banana House.

The neighbourhood

Jannah is at the hub of Shela village life next to the main square, sandy and shaded by a tropical almond, where school children collect in the afternoons to kick around a ball, where free-range chickens scratch, and donkeys are tethered. It’s also the retail heart of Shela with a treasure trove of kaftans for sale at Aman, bags from recycled sailcloth at Ali Lamu (next to handmade ice creams) and a selection of jewellery and Anna’s designs at Jannah. The little harbour and the beach are all within walking distance, and while the sandy car-free alleyways hum with life in the day, after the 9pm and Call to Prayer, a hush descends on the village houses.

The service

Ann, the head housekeeper, manages a tight ship with immaculate housekeeping services – the kind that returns your underwear folded and colour-coded. The floors are clean enough to eat off, and nothing is too much trouble. The private dhows are managed by Captain Smiley and an equally charming crew who will transform the morning exercise of a swim in the channel into a memorable event with a tray of dates and cardamon spiced coffee, laundered kikoys and a fishing rod.

For families

Two-bedroom residences are perfect for families and children over the age of 10 who will enjoy the freedom of exploring the lagoons and inlets of the outlying islands on the private dhows and the safe playground that is the carless streets of Shela.

Eco effort

Anna respects the needs of the community by supporting local enterprises, not selling alcohol, and desisting from creating a swimming pool complete with bikini-clad devotees that might offend. Environmentally responsible practices are encouraged, from solar-powered energy to recycling and composting, and all shampoos and soaps are biodegradable, organic and locally produced. A visit to the farm that makes these is an unusual afternoon ‘experience’. Every detail of Jannah is Made in Kenya, including the fashion brands in the retail outlet. The Jannah eco- ethos spreads from the fair-trade coffee at the breakfast table to fair salaries and equal opportunities for women within the company.

Accessibility

There are no lifts at Jannah, and the Penthouse is a long way up the highest building in Shela.

Anything left to mention?

Transfer from the small local airport is by Jannah, a lovely wooden taxi-boat included in the price of your stay. A dhow trip should be part of your daily ritual on an island dictated by the fluctuating tides. To sail through the mangrove channels of Manda Island to spot bobbing turtles and birdlife is a privilege granted to few, whilst the surf and pristine beaches of Kipungani are an adventurous day’s charter away.

Conde Nast Traveller

All About Jannah Lamu

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