Lamu Cultural Festival expected to create jobs for over 200 youth

Lamu cultural festival

Competitors line up to kickstart the donkey race during the 19th edition of the Lamu Cultural Festival in November 2019.  The donkey race is among the entertainment that features during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

At least 200 youths will get temporary employment during this year’s Lamu Cultural Festival, the county government has announced.

This year’s fete, the 20th edition since its inception, will be held from November 24-27 in Lamu Old Town, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage site.

The festival showcases the rich culture and heritage of Lamu’s Swahili communities and is preceded by various competitions, led by donkey and dhow races, swimming and traditional dances.

Speaking to journalists in Lamu, County Secretary Ali Abbas said preparations were underway and welcomed all to this year’s event.

The festival was introduced in 2000 as a way of marketing Lamu to Kenyan and international tourists.

This year’s edition would have been the 22nd, but it was not marked in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and financial constraints.

“I take this opportunity to welcome all to the mega Lamu Cultural Festival starting Thursday this week all the way to Sunday,” said Lamu Tourism Association executive officer Ghalib Alwy.

“The county government has done its best to improve the cleanliness of the Old Town. The festival will also create temporary employment for over 200 youths. Don’t fail to attend.”

He said between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors are expected to attend the festival.

Mr Alwy, who has been the Lamu Cultural Festival promotional group chair for 19 years, said most hotels in the Lamu archipelago are fully booked by visitors and ready for the festival.

Unlike in previous festivals, he said, this year will see Lamu henna-decorated Muslim women prepare the best Swahili foods, including grilled fish in coconut sauce, locally called samaki wa kupaka, and biryani (mixed rice dish) for attendees.

He thanked the local government, the main sponsor, for reviving the festival and other events.

Unique tourist destination

Mr Alwy said such events are the best platforms to brand, package and market Lamu as a unique tourist destination.

“Don’t miss it. Make sure you’re in Lamu and make your reservations now. Most hotels are already fully booked and we’re looking for more rooms to ensure you’re sorted. Let’s meet in Lamu,” said Mr Alwy.

Among the key guests expected to attend this year’s festival are Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

Governors from various counties, leaders, representatives of several African countries, ambassadors, princes and princesses from around the globe, including Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are also expected to attend.

The festival is among the events on Lamu’s annual calendar that brand the archipelago as the ‘Island of Festivals’.

The others include the Maulid, Art, Food and Expo, Yoga, Kite, and Painters festivals, the Shela Hat Contest, and the Fishing Competition.

The festivals are key in attracting thousands of visitors from around the world.

The Yoga and Maulid festivals were celebrated in October and attracted over 7,000 guests and tourists from Kenya, East Africa and the world.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened across Lamu County as preparations for the festival continue.

Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said they have intensified surveillance on land, air, water, the Boni forest, roads, and the Kenya-Somalia border.

“We welcome all to Lamu for the festival. We’ve beefed up security to ensure no criminal interrupts the festival. We’re alert,” Mr Macharia said.