Swahili architecture is a style of building along the eastern and southeastern coasts of Africa. Though essentially of Arabic or Persian style and origin; archaeological, written, linguistic, and cultural evidence also suggests strong African influence and sustainment. There is evidence of enduring Arabic and Islamic influence in the form of trade, inter-marriage, and an exchange of ideas.
The traditional stone house is Lamu's classic building type - found exclusively in Mkomani - the northern and oldest part of the town - a patrician area built and inhabited by wealthy merchants and noble Arab families - many of whose descendants still live in these grand, historic family homes.
They vary in size and form, from relatively modest, single-story houses to magnificent mansions, but all share a uniformity of design, construction and decoration. Each house follows a universal, centuries-old plan, and consists of a series of richly-ornamented galleries facing northwards towards Mecca. Thick external walls, high ceilings and small windows protect the inhabitants from the equatorial sun and ensure that the interiors are cool, private and secluded.
Of course not every Lamu home can or should be an absolutely traditional and historically accurate stone townhouse - many houses now have makuti-thatched roofs for instance - which were only introduced in the 20th century.