The 21st edition of the Lamu Cultural Festival, which kicked off on Thursday, has recorded the highest turnout, shrugging off the post-Kovid 19 effects.
Hundreds of guests, tourists and other revelers from different parts of the country and abroad thronged the archipelago for the three-day event which is being held at the Lamu Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the first day of the event on Thursday, which culminates on Saturday night, participants were entertained with a poetry and oral literature competition at the famous Mkunguni Square.
Other activities lined up for the day include the Iron Man triathlon, cultural displays and gallery, young sailors competition, CASA race, Anidan band dance at Mkunguni Square and the seafront, with the football final at Twaif Grounds inside Lamu Island in the afternoon.
The Lamu Cultural Festival is an annual event celebrated in Lamu Island to showcase the rich culture and heritage of the Swahili people of Lamu that has captivated the world for centuries.
The theme of this year's festival is "Exploring the rich tapestry of local traditions and technologies, dances and food that make up the community's cultural mosaic".
On Thursday, most of the streets, pathways and general seaside area of Lamu Old Town were already filled with people as the event got underway.
Spectators will also witness the launch of Glimpses of East Africa's Coastal History, Culture and Heritage of Lamu at Mkunguni Square.
Other activities that will mark the end of the first day include cooking competitions and performances by local artistes at Lamu Fort and Mkunguni.
In his opening remarks, Lamu Governor Issa Timamy welcomed all visitors, participants and distinguished guests to what he described as a vibrant and culturally rich Lamu County.
Referring to the theme of this year's Lamu Cultural Festival, Mr Timamy noted that it directly reflects the diverse and intricate threads that make up the cultural fabric of Lamu County.
"As we gather to explore and appreciate the richness of our local heritage, we invite you to immerse yourself in the beauty of our traditions and the ingenuity of our traditional technologies. The dances and music, the aromas and flavours of our cuisine are all integral elements that contribute to the unique tapestry that defines us," said Mr Timamy.
The county boss reiterated that Lamu has a rich history and that the festival is seen as a holistic celebration of the harmony between the community's past and present.
"This is an opportunity for us to showcase the resilience of our cultural identity in the face of a changing world. I would like to thank the organisers, volunteers and all those involved in making this festival a reality. As I have always said, Lamu remains a beacon of cultural diversity and preservation. Once again, welcome to Lamu, the island of festivals," said Mr Timamy.
On her part, Lamu County Culture, Tourism, Trade and Investment Executive Aisha Miraj said at least 30,000 guests and tourists from all parts of Kenya and the world are expected to attend this year's Lamu Cultural Festival.
Ms Miraj said at least Sh30 million will be spent on organising the mega Lamu Cultural Festival.
She described the event as a major boost to both the tourism and trade sectors in the region.
"We are happy to organise this year's event. All is ready and let the people enjoy this mega Lamu Cultural Festival. And as you explore the cultural mosaic that surrounds you, may you find inspiration and appreciation for the traditions that make our community truly exceptional," said Ms Miraj.
Among the high-profile guests expected to attend this year's Lamu Cultural Festival are Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, at least three cabinet secretaries, governors from various counties in the Coast region and beyond, and ambassadors from various countries.
Tourism and trade stakeholders interviewed expressed optimism that their sectors would be boosted by the event.
Lamu Tourism Association (LTA) chairman Ghalib Alwy said he was happy with the devolved government's efforts in organising such annual events, which act as major tourist attractions for the archipelago.
"As we're in the peak tourist season, we've seen more guests booking rooms in our hotels. In fact, business has been good since November. The tourist numbers have been very impressive with the cultural festival. We welcome everyone to Lamu. People should make an appointment to attend our unique cultural festival," said Mr Alwy.
The festival offers a rare opportunity to see traditional dances, the famous donkey race, dhow races, swimming competition, heena painting and cultural display of the Swahili people who are renowned for their craftsmanship and traditional skills including wood carving from the county all in one place with the fast-paced donkey race competition attracting hundreds of spectators.
Other events that mark the archipelago and brand Lamu as the 'Island of Festivals' include Eid-Ul-Adhar, Maulidi Festival, Amu Seafood Cuisine, Lamu Fishing Competition, Lamu Art Festival, Lamu Yoga Festival, The Kite Festival and the Governor's Dhow Race, most of which have been held before.
These festivals bring the archipelago to life throughout the year, attracting both local and international visitors.