Johari House, Shela
Johari means jewel in Kiswahili, and this beautiful and historic house in the heart of Shela village really is a gem.
Johari House features in Swahili Style by Javed Jafferji and Elie Losleben – who aptly describe the house’s wonderful, authentic and tranquil atmosphere:
“Stepping through the simple carved door at Johari House, a gentle breeze blows gently from the palm-fringed entrance. Just behind lies a sun-filled courtyard, where huge potted ferns and palms sway gently against sand-coloured walls. A small fountain, a traditional feature of stone houses in the Middle East, trickles softly behind a tall pillar, its cool water cascading over colourful Spanish tiles in complex geometric shapes.
Just off the courtyard, small zidaka niches filled with antique rosewater decanters and Arabian lanterns frame a large wooden door that leads deeper inside. Beyond the old entranceway, a wall displays over a hundred zidaka in changing shapes carved into its plaster work – arches and rectangles, squares and arabesques – that reach all the way to the room’s high ceiling.
Johari House is a classic Swahili home, its layout simple and understated, its design stately and magnificent. Originally built in the early 19th century by Swahili nobleman Bwana Omari Mokowe for his newlywed daughters, its current owners have changed little of Johari’s timeless simplicity. On a wall bordering the courtyard, ornate designs in original plasterwork extend around a simple alcove in interwoven patterns of flowers and chains.
As in a traditional Swahili home, the deeper you walk into its stone interior, the cooler the rooms become – from the spacious long sitting room to darkened bedrooms cooled by the incoming breeze. The sheer simplicity of Johari’s classical Swahili architecture and the profusion of plants and flower motifs transforms it into a garden house, a place of refreshment seclusion and peace.
Upstairs, Johari House assumes more modern comforts. On the first floor, a large trellis shades an open rooftop garden as bunches of pink bougainvillea hang from its wooden frame. Ferns in large planters sit beside a whitewashed baraza as heavy flowers drop slowly in the gentle breeze. Swahili furniture, all made or sourced locally in Lamu, adorns the bedrooms in quiet elegance. Coffee braziers and incense burners stand on small tables and the soft, sand-coloured floors are piled high with mats and pillows. On the rooftop’s large baraza, shaded by thatched mkeka, lie voluminous cushions in African prints, bright and vibrant against the rooftops of Shela Village and the clear blue sky”.
On the ground floor of Johari House there is a traditional daka entrance porch and inner courtyard, two grand Swahili reception galleries with exceptional carved plasterwork and zidaka niches, and sitting, eating and sleeping areas. To the rear of the house is a double bedroom in the historic harem quarters, with a traditional ensuite bathroom. Also downstairs are a kitchen and store.
On the first floor is an open terrace, with lovely bougainvillea-clad pergola and baraza seats, and an unusually large master bedroom with sitting and study areas, built-in wooden wardrobes and ensuite bathroom. To the front of the house is a bedroom with single beds and ensuite shower room – ideal for children. On the second floor is a large, private and tranquil makuti-thatched roof terrace with expansive baraza sofa seats and dining table. There is a further flat-roofed area to the front of the house that could easily be converted into another shady roof terrace.
Price - Ksh 40 million
Johari House is also available to rent.
Please contact us for further information.