Kenya is one of the richest countries with strong cultural diversity, as the country possess more that seventy tribal group within it. Kenya is the only African land in which different people from different parts of the continent migrated and settled in throughout the African history. This makes the land more peculiar as each and every group of people have their own style of living including their culture, tradition and festivals. Kenya is the land of colorful festivals, that sprinkles the individual culture of each clan on you during each festival. Every Kenyan festival brings people together to celebrate with joy and energy which is the secret of the unity of the communities till date.
Lamu Cultural Festival (November)
Lamu Cultural festival is celebrated by the Lamu community people and the people living in the island of Lamu of Kenya including other community members to celebrate their peaceful lifestyle from the past to the present and to the future. The Lamu people have their own cultural heritage and beliefs that is loved and attracted by number of tourists who take part in the celebration. According to their belief, every year, Lamu gains life during the Lamu Cultural festival. During this festival, the entire group of Kenyans gets gathered in the place to celebrate their beliefs and life styles that the Lamu people consider their soul and life. The cultural festival takes over with numbers of competitions and different races like donkey races (the highlight of the Lamu festival including endearing symbol the culture and tradition of the community), henna painting, Swahili poetry, dhow sailing and so on, in which the people participate with enthusiasm and joy. One of the oldest games played during this festival is the Boa competition which has some archeological evidences of playing it from thousands of years ago by the African people. The Lamu Cultural festival teaches every one about the insight of life, how life was led by their ancestors along with peaceful and loving lifestyle and architecture. Visiting Kenya during the festival is considered as the best time to visit Lamu,as the lessons of life can be learned in simple and attractive manner.
The entire life style of the Lamu people can be seen during this festival, including Lamu weddings, special henna paintings, and special dishes of Swahili. Their beliefs are followed from their ancestral ages and are engraved deeply in the heart and soul of every local in Kenya. The Lamu Island is located off the coastal area of Kenya that gets alive every year during the Lamu cultural festival. Along with the culture and beliefs, the festival also promotes the beauty and uniqueness of the island of Lamu as well as its people. The festival is usually celebrated at the end of November, from 21 to 24th of the month on which thousands of tourists from all over the world enjoy their trip to Kenya. Being 700 years old, the Lamu Island is declared as one of the Heritage Sites of the World. As Lamu was ruled by the Oman, most of the people of the Island are Muslims, and Islam plays an important role in the Lamu cultural festival. The festival was launched in 2001 that is supported and sponsored by various private and international embassies. The old skills of the Swahili culture like reading and storytelling is also greatly encouraged during the festival. The festival astonishes the foreigners with its magic of new life, and things turning old as you can see an ancient form of Lamu during these days.
Lake Turkana Festival (11-16 June)
Celebrated in the month of May, the Lake Turkana Festival is celebrated for encouraging and strengthening the bond and unity of different communities of the people. Nearly all the main tribal groups, living in northwest Kenya like Borana, Burji, Elmolo, Garee, Dassanech, Gabbra, Somali, Konso, Samburu, Rendille, Turkana, Sakuye and Wata, come forward to celebrate this festival so that they can get a chance to overcome all the stereotypes among them and can come under mutual understanding with themselves. As these communities of people have a bitter history on their side, as they fought frequently with each other for their rights in the past, this festival was organized for enriching their understanding and unity. The festival is celebrated every year in a small town named Loiyangalani, located on the south eastern coastal region of Lake Turkana. The place is well known for its Desert Museum that you can see nowhere else except here. Peaceful coexistence between different cultures are promoted through this festival. Nearly ten local ethnic communities live on the coast of Lake Turkana and the Lake Turkana Festival displays the performances of the ten communities,which can be considered unique and attractive by the outsiders. These people have their own way of living, living in unique huts and with a different variety of foods that can be tasted and enjoyed by the people who attend the festival.
The life and customs of the ten communities of Lake Turkana, their tradition and culture, arts and crafts, and music and dance leaves you with a positive experience that gives the fascinating and positive perception of life along the region of Lake Turkana. Each year the celebration takes place on a full moon day, which increases the beauty of the festival. Wandering on the streets of Loiyangalani gives you a memorable experience as the streets are decorated with festival mood, lights and cheers of different tribal clans. The festival goes for three days and on the final day of the festival the celebration ends with some political speeches, traditional dances, dramas or stage shows, fashion shows in their original traditional costumes and discos. Being a tourist, it will be more enthusiastic to wander along the streets and among the crowd of local tribes and watching the participants, visiting their traditional house and tasting their native food. Traveling to Lake Turkana with proper tourist guidance at the end of April and in May will let you experience the wonderful event.
Maulidi Festival (9-10 November)
Maulidi is one of the historical festivals of Kenya that is organized every year. As most of the Kenyan population belongs to the Muslim religion, Maulidi Festival has become one of the permanent features of the Islamic activities. The festival is celebrated in Lamu that gathers numbers of Muslims from several parts of the African continent, including from East Africa, and also the Islamic people from many parts of the world. This festival is celebrated on the birth of Prophet Mohammed, which is considered as the most important day of Muslims. Maulidi Festival is celebrated on the third month of every year as per the Muslim Calendar. According to the normal calendar used by world, the festival takes place during the month of June. The festival is being sponsored by the National Museum of Kenya from 1990 and also many local and international sponsors. The festival is organized with many cultural competitions like swimming, donkey races, which are the unique sports of the people of Kenya, tug of war, and henna painting competitions. The streets are filled with Swahili music and traditional dances as Lamu is well known for its rich culture and history. This is the main reason for which the Muslims of East Africa choose Lamu as the center for this event. Thousands of Muslims from all over the world recite qasidas prayers together that bring goosebumps to the listeners, and the festival gives you one unforgettable experience.
As the towns of Lamu are set in stone, traveling to Lamu for the Maulidi festival gives an outside the world feeling with its old history, culture and tradition since the town exists from the early 7th century. The Riyadha mosque founded in 1866 in Lamu is the location for their prayers. The peaceful and relaxing environment of Lamu with its beaches and natural richness makes the festival mood fresher and relaxed. Goma dance is most popular in the festival, in which people with their traditional dress and with a walking stick dance accordingly to the sound of the drum. The chanting and prayers can be heard throughout the night around the mosque accompanied with dance and songs. In spite of being a religious festival, it is also a historical festival so that the visitors are also allowed to participate with the natives. Visiting the island of Lamu during the Maulidi festival will impress the tourists and make them fall in love with the place and circumstances including the warmth and hospitality of the Lamu people.
Visit the German website Backpackertrail to find out more about this beautiful country, and to find out what activities Kenya has to offer.
List of other major festivals
January – New Year’s Day
March – Nairobi Film Festival
April – Good Friday on April 19 Easter Monday on April 22
May – Labor Day
June – Madaraka Day on June 1, Eid al Fitr on June 5, Lake Turkana Festival, Maulidi Festival
August – Idd-ul-Azha on August 12, Maralal Camel Derby
October – Mashujaa Day on October 21, Moi day on October 10, Diwali on October 27
November – Lamu Cultural Festival
December – Independence Day (Jamhuri) on December 12, Christmas Day on December 25th, Boxing day on December 26, Rusinga Festival, Pawa Festival