Lamu to reinstate suspended cultural festivals

A plane flies past locals and foreign guests taking part in dhow race during the Lamu Cultural Festivals in Lamu County on November 12, 2016. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The famed Lamu Cultural Festival is finally back and will be celebrated in November, the county government has revealed.

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.

This and other cultural events were suspended in 2017 when the county government said it did not have money to prepare for them.

Newly sworn-in Governor Issa Timamy called on locals and tourists to prepare for the global event.

The festival was a boon for the local economy, benefiting traders and other business people.

The local government was the main sponsor of the event since its inception 22 years ago.

“I want to send an early invitation to every resident and tourists to the festival that will be a historic one,” said Mr Timamy.

Over 30,000 local and foreign visitors attended the annual fete, witnessing an array of cultural celebrations.

Mr Timamy also declared that other events that made Lamu the ‘Island of Festivals’ will return.

He said his administration will prioritise such celebrations, adding that they are the best platforms to brand, package and market Lamu as a unique tourist destination.

The town’s annual Maulid, Art, Food and Expo, Yoga, Kite, and Painters festivals, Shela Hat Contest and fishing competition are among the key events that attract thousands of visitors from around the world.

The festivals, most of which were introduced around 2014, were a key force in propelling the tourism sector back to its feet shortly after terror attacks that reduced the number of tourists.

“Currently, our tourism is badly off. As part of the efforts to resuscitate the sector, all the dead festivals will be back so as to help propel Lamu to the global tourism and trade markets,” the governor said.

Mr Timamy’s announcement was welcomed by tourism stakeholders in the archipelago, saying this will mark a new dawn in efforts to revive the sector.

Lamu Tourism Association executive officer Ghalib Alwy said such events are key in promoting culture.

Mr Alwy, who has been the Lamu Cultural Festival promotional group chair for 19 years, stressed that the more festivals that Lamu has, the more the region keeps its heritage and culture alive at the global level.

Locals and business people who spoke to Nation.Africa on Friday pleaded with the devolved government to consider allocating more than 10 days for the cultural festival in November instead of the usual four.

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