A portly middle aged man sometimes can be found down by the harbor front waving large live lobsters in the faces of tourists. This gentleman, Ali Hippy is well known by the locals and tourists alike, in Lamu. Ali invites anyone who will take him up on his offer, to dine with himself and his 2 or 3 wives. His guests are usually tourists. His family lives in a dirt brick house located several blocks away from the water front in the area of town without electricity.
I met Ali by chance on the harbor front. I showed some interest in his much talked about meal and he followed me back to my hotel. I gave him a small deposit and he said he would meet me back at the hotel at a certain time in the evening.
Ali standing by the waterfront with his lobsters!
Being that he knew the town inside and out and I had been there only a day or two – I agreed it would be best for him to meet me. At the pre-determined time Ali showed up with several more tourists, picked me up at the hotel and proceeded to meander through the maze of streets until we reached his home. By this time it was dusk and he told us to wait outside while he and his wives finished preparing the meal. We sat around with new friends for 30 minutes chatting. It was completely dark by the time Ali motioned us to come into his house
We entered a small doorway – I had to duck under the wooden timber holding up the earthen walls in order to enter. It was completely dark inside because of the lack of electricity, except for several small candles in the eating room. There were 6 tourists, myself included, and Ali and his wives. We all ate a meal of fish, rice, vegetable stew, and a little lobster with our hands from bowls on the dirt floor. Food kept appearing until we could not eat any more. After dinner Ali told us about his family and his life in Lamu.
Then he asked his wives to bring him his musical instruments. They brought in several plastic buckets. Ali began to pound the palms of his hands on these buckets – his wives soon joined him and then Ali began to sing. He belted out song after song, some in English some in Swahili. After this fascinating evening myself and the other tourists present at the dinner each went our own
way and we all disappeared into the nighttime maze of Lamu’s narrow winding streets.