Lamu is a living town off the Kenya coast. It was recently nominated to the World Heritage List. The town has been relatively undisturbed by colonization and modernization. This study reports on the early Swahili dwelling, which is still a functioning type in Lamu. It commences with a brief historical perspective of Lamu in its Swahili and East African coastal setting. It compares descriptions of the Lamu house, as found in literature, with personal observations and field surveys, including a short description of construction methods. The study offers observations on conservation and the current state of the Lamu house. It is concluded with a comparison between Lamu and Stone Town, Zanzibar, in terms of house types and settlement patterns. We found that the Lamu house is the stage for Swahili ritual and that the ancient and climatically uncomfortable plan form has been retained for nearly a millennium because of its symbolic value.