By Coast Times Digital Team
Lamu cultural festival is one of the world’s most famous Cultural festivals to be held at a UNESCO world heritage city attracting both domestic and foreign tourists.
“Don’t ever plan to go to Lamu abruptly without planning during the Lamu cultural festival because you will have nowhere to spend your night, all hotels are always fully booked during that period,” said Kwale resident Aziz Vumbi, who visits Pate Island frequently.
This year’s 20th edition of the Lamu cultural festival was hailed as the best after it was heavily attended.
It returned after a two-year break occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Lamu Governor Issa Timamy, contends that the mega fete had been very successful and it was great to have it back in a big way after Covid-19 pandemic eased.
Launched in 2000, the festival is normally marked in the old town, a historical place that was listed in 2001 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Lamu County government organized the festivals in the archipelago to keep the county bubbling and attractive to local and international tourists.
Governor Timamy said the event under the theme ‘a melting pot of diversity and multiculturalism’ had been a ‘huge success’.
“The event was well attended and it’s fantastic to have the festival back after years of uncertainties. It brings the island dwellers together to celebrate local art, music and culture and we are proud to deliver such a successful event for the local community and our guests,” he said.
About 250 local youths had been engaged by the county government to spruce up the island before the festival kicked off and some 27 women groups were issued with Sh30, 000 each to set up food bazaars displaying Swahili cuisines along the seafront.
Governor Timamy says these year-round festivals offer visitors the opportunity to explore the island and ‘discover what makes Lamu truly unique’.
Several foreign dignitaries among them envoys from Britain, Denmark, Netherlands, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Sudan joined the local community and other visitors in the three-day extravaganza.
Governor Timamy said his administration eyes deeper engagement on trade, tourism, investment and other areas of common interest with the foreign stakeholders.
Lamu Tourism Association Chairman Ghalib Alwy says the year-round festivals offered visitors a wonderful opportunity to experience the island’s unspoiled pristine beaches and medieval ambience.
“We want to diversify and market Lamu as an island of festivals and the interest so far is enormous,” he said, adding that the fete has attracted 30,000 domestic and foreign visitors,” he said.
He said the event is a huge success as thousands of spectators thronged the festival that continues to play a greater role in fostering cross-cultural interaction, peace and development in the region.
Some of the events that were showcased to the world during the four-day festival include poetry and oral literature competition, Iron Man triathlon, cultural displays, local music performances, donkey race, fishing competition, beach, and soccer.
According to data collected by the Lamu Tourism Association, the coastal county lost at least Sh20 million annually by failing to host the annual event, partly due to Covid-19 crisis and also failure by the past regime to boost the sector.
Since 2014, the Lamu Cultural Festival has been the hallmark of the county’s tourism calendar, with more than 30,000 domestic and international guests swarming the coastal old town for an experience of the Swahili Culture and festivities.
The same sentiments were echoed by Joseph Muye Tsuma, General Manager of the Red Pepper House, who said that the Lamu Cultural Festival is very important for the region.
National Museums of Kenya Lamu Curator Mohammed Mwenje further commended the county government for its efforts to revive the Lamu Cultural Festival, adding that it will aid in marketing the county as a popular tourist destination.