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.