I met Satan the very first time I visited Lamu in 2007. Flights cost an arm and leg, locking out most locals. [Kenyans]. Lamu was aspirational. The magazine I was writing for paid for my flight.
My stringer was a man called Satan. Everybody in Lamu knows Satan, literally and figuratively. Satan introduced me to spots in Lamu, one of them being Petely’s Bar. There aren’t any bars in Lamu to speak of, it is predominantly Muslim, and so Petley’s is the official pub. The rest of the bars are in hotels.
This bar is part of Petley’s Inn, one of the oldest hotels in East Africa dating back, what, 170 years ago.
The Inn has about 11 self-contained rooms and a swimming pool that you will see as you climb the stairs up to the pub. I remember the first night to be riotous as it should be seeing that I was only 30 years old.
There was some sort of a party going on there, a white-folk party which means a lot of shots, cocktails and bad dancing.
I was only getting to start drinking, trying to feel my way into my preference and in the process drinking garbage. I remember some people undressing and jumping into the pool and the establishment causing a fuss because they were not guests.
I remember leaving at midnight, having filled myself with cheap brandy and getting lost in the labyrinth that is Lamu, the narrow corridors that look the same during the day but that look like walking into the bowels of a napping whale.
It took me an hour to find my way to where I was staying and by that time the girl I was with wanted nothing but to sleep. I will always remember Lamu fondly for that.
I was back there recently. Time had elapsed, 15 years to be precise. Sure, I have been to Lamu a dozen times since that first night but have never been up to Petley’s. It was in the afternoon, it was empty but also filled with nostalgia and lots of light.
A breeze blew through and I stood there thinking, ‘my God, where did the time go?”