Baytil Ajaib is by no means a normal hotel. It's a truly unique way to experience Lamu - taking in both the rich history of the island and its sometimes eccentric modern character.
The building itself is spectacular - an old Swahili mansion built by Arab traders set back in amongst the narrow, labyrinthine streets of old Lamu town. It has been restored over 9 years of painstaking reconstruction by the owners in order to be as authentic as possible. The experience of staying there is authentic indeed - and very luxurious. The mansion is built around an inner courtyard, with stairs curving upwards to a rooftop patio. The apartments (particularly the Hareem Suite where we stayed) are palatial and exquisitely furnished with antiques from all over the world. The rooftop is a wonderful place to watch the sun go down and have a drink before dinner, especially the "dhower" - a particularly strong local cocktail! Breakfast is excellent as well, with fresh fruit and our favorite: Wilson's special crepes.
Malik, the hotel's resident co-owner, treated us like family and gave us an insider's perspective on the island. He explained to us the history of the hotel, gave us a tour around town, introduced us to the many local and expat residents that he knows, and told us the stories and gossip about the eccentric international crowd that owns property in Lamu. Malik is so well known around town that dropping his name will get you a further discount on a souvenir, or dissuade the boatmen who occasionally pester tourists to use their services. We ended up eating many of our meals with Malik, and found his every recommendation with regard to what to do, where to go, what to eat, etc. to be excellent.
Baytil Ajaib is half boutique hotel and half historic museum. It is a place where you are treated to a luxurious Swahili lifestyle and introduced to a fascinating modern culture. Upon leaving we told Malik (as other guests before us have done) that he should double the hotel's nightly rates. As it is, Baytil Ajaib is vastly underpriced for the experience it delivers.