Lamu roars back to life with return of Maulid fete
After an 18-month hiatus, festivals in Lamu are expected to return to their pre-pandemic glory, with locals ushering in the first of many; the four-day Maulid festival.
The 132th edition of Maulid festival season is back with local and international tourists thronging the streets of Lamu Old Town for the event.
Expectations are already high among street vendors and hoteliers that with the government’s lifting of some Covid restrictions could lead to resurgence of tourist numbers with at least 5,000 visitors expected at the fete.
These types of events were all but absent over the past year, as health measures coupled by the government’s veto against mass gathering put a suspension on the festivals that are usually the spur for Lamu’s tourism sector.
“The significance of the Maulid festival cannot be underscored, especially since it is the first major event that leads up to the world famous Lamu Cultural Festival,” Ali Bunu, proprietor of Sunsail Hotel stated.
Festival is marked annually by a section of Muslims in remembrance of the birth of Prophet Muhammed in the holy city of Mecca in 570 AD.
It is marked every third month of the Islamic calendar. In Lamu, it is usually marked in principal at the renowned Riyadha Mosque.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Riyadha Mosque and Islamic Centre secretary-general Abubakar Mohammed Badawy said this year’s edition will be used to sensitise residents on the need for peace and unity ahead of next year’s polls.
“Covid-19 pandemic has indeed had an impact on this year’s festival with markedly low numbers in comparison to previous years, where we normally have as many as 30,000 people,” he said.
Festival will also be used to showcase Lamu’s rich culture that include traditional dances of various areas such as Goma La Pate, Siyu, Matondoni and Uta, Shairi recitations, Islamic calligraphy competitions and Maulidi processions.
“There are also donkey and dhow races, which are key events of any festival in Lamu, in which youths play a critical role in participating in them,” Omar Maalim, a resident said. Kenya Ports Authority is also sponsoring dhow races that are usually popular among residents and tourists.
Vendors interviewed also indicated that the festival has now begun picking up.
“The Covid-19 impact has affected many local tourists, many of whom have shied away from coming this year due to financial constraints,” Amina Ndungu, a vendor noted.
She further stated that there needs to be a lot more intervention from the county government to enable Lamu to benefit more from festivals through tourism influx.
“The county government needs to invest more towards marketing Lamu as a favourable destination with emphasis in marketing the devolved unit as an Island of festivals for which we are known for,” Lamu Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Ikhwan Omar observed.
Lamu Tourist Association Vice-Chairman Fridah Njogu said Maulid Festival presents an opportunity for tourism to have a resurgence following the effects of Covid-19.
Tourism Executive Josephat Musembi stated that the county government had already taken steps to ensure Lamu Old Town is conducive for the festival.