Lamu is famous for its Maulidi celebrations, which mark the birth of the Prophet Mohamed. The month-long celebration of Maulid climaxes in a three-day festival organised by religious leaders and the National Museum of Kenya. The festival brings visitors and pilgrims to Lamu from far afield for recitals of praise poems, music and dances, calligraphy and art exhibits, dhow and donkey races, swimming competitions and finally a lively parade or zeffe that winds through the narrow alleyways of the town, lined by cheering crowds.
A travel to Lamu for the Maulidi festival brings an out of this world experience. This tropical island having been in existence from the 7th century, offers a great exciting chance for a visitor to learn about culture and history of a people set in a stone town in this age and time. The town is in fact a documented World Heritage site. Each year, the Maulidi festival is celebrated in the island town. This is a four day Islamic festival held during the third month of the Muslim calendar to celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammed. Maulidi celebration in Lamu is a joyous occasion that involves music, veneration and religious recitals. The festival is celebrated in the month of June at the Riyadha mosque where Habib Swaleh originally founded it in 1866. It’s indeed a celebration of a people’s culture and tradition held so dear by the residents that blends history, the present and the future. Lamu Island is covered in beaches with tiny villages covered in coconut and mango plantations. On arrival while one is air bound, there is the opportunity to have a view of the great blue Indian Ocean. Travel from the Manda airstrip to get to this ancient town is by dhow and on arrival, one is greeted by a rare sight indeed; donkeys as a form of transport. The island residents are warm and friendly to visitors.
A visitor should plan a visit to some of these great places while in Lamu for the Maulidi festival: the Lamu Museum, Old Town, the Sultan Fort and Lamu’s largest open market. These places offer an opportunity to learn more about Lamu and the great Swahili culture. There is so much to see and do during Maulidi. The festival is accompanied by local traditional dances and the Goma dance is the most popular. It involves men standing with walking sticks and dancing to the rhythmic drum beatings. There is also a group of men who stage a mock fight involving traditional curved Arabic swords all dancing systematically to the beat of drums. A prayer vigil is held throughout the night around the mosque, alternated with chanting and narrating the life of Prophet Mohammed accompanied by songs and dance. On the last day of Maulidi, there is a procession into town of boys and men holding hands. When they reach the town centre, the crowd bursts into song and dance. The ceremony is inviting and visitors are allowed to join in. There are also several competitions and races held on that day. The residents compete and display awesome skills in Swahili poetry, Koranic recitals, henna painting, board games, and dhow racing, cross country racing, swimming and football. The real Maulidi show stopper is the donkey race. The donkey is a great symbol of Lamu’s culture and so this race is held in awe. Take a trip to Lamu and experience the Maulidi Festival. A visit to Lamu for the Maulidi festival will make one fall in love with the place. Lamu people are warm and very hospitable.
For more information visit: Lamu Tourism
Lamu is a small island off the Coast of Kenya. Steeped in history, it has been visited by people from all over the world. The inhabitants still uncover Chinese pottery from the 14th Century and the Arabic influence is seen through locals who can recite tales from the Arabian nights. The island has managed to keep its culture alive in the face of modernity, to pass on to future generations. A large part of Lamu’s charm lies in its throwback nature. Walking through the town, you are transported to another time and place.
Lamu Cultural Festival is a celebration of both the past and the future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the heart and soul of the Lamu community. Most visitors to the Lamu Island fall in love with this relaxed and peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous. Each year, Lamu comes to life during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival. Several competitions and races are staged during this week long festival. These events are designed to each encourage local skills or practices that are central to Lamu life. These include traditional Swahili poetry, Henna painting, Bao competition… Bao is probably the oldest known game in human history, with archaeological evidence suggesting that the game has been played throughout Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years.
Started in 2001, the Lamu Cultural Festival has grown exponentially and has become a major cultural event in the region drawing local and international crowds. The 3-day festival showcases Lamu’s cultural character and unique towncsape. Visitors often plan return visits at their leisure. The grass-root efforts of the organizers have helped to rejuvenate the community and install a sense of local pride.
The Lamu Cultural Festival is a three-day event highlighting Lamu’s heritage in a carnival atmosphere featuring traditional dances (ngomas), historical masterpieces, musical performances and dances, henna competitions, dhow and donkey races and traditional craft displays, which have been an important expression of neighbourhood rivalries. Besides competitive ngomas, deep seated animosity among Lamu residents in the past was settled through competitions on water and land: Kiswahili poetry competitions, these will be some of the highlights of the festival. There will be displays of traditional handicraft, Swahili bridal ceremony and a Swahili food bazaar. The festival offers a modern sample of these time-honoured traditions against a rich backdrop of the beauty and splendor of the Lamu archipelago.
In order to preserve and encourage the art of dhow sailing, now threatened by increasing availability of engines and prefabricated boats, a dhow race is also held. The town’s finest dhows are selected to compete, and race under sail through a complicated series of buoys, combining speed with elaborate tacking and maneuvering skill. Other events include swimming, and at times a challenging cross country race along the waterfront, all the way to Shela village and back- all in the physically draining heat of the day. The real highlight of every festival involves the town’s most endearing symbol- the donkey race. Local donkey jockeys literally spend the entire year honing their riding skills for this event, and the winning rider wears his title with great pride. Being a winning donkey jockey requires a specific set of skills. As with most such races, small physical stature is helpful, but keeping a stubborn donkey moving and on course requires a definite talent.
For more information visit: Lamu Tourism