Travel: The Lamu Cultural Festival

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The year is about to come to a close. It’s that time when we take off to celebrate another fruitful season or simply seek to forget all the disappointments and pent up frustrations. So the search begins for the perfect and breathtaking getaway that will help us forget our problems even for the shortest while.

Popular gospel musician Michael W. Smith once did a beautiful number titled ‘Lamu’. He was inspired by this place which he describes as an island hideaway, a hotel paradise, a rebirth from life’s demise, where one can run away from all the turmoil within. His description is indeed spot on and reading more about this destination absolutely whets the traveler’s appetite.

Located within the Lamu Archipelago off the Indian Ocean along the northern coast of Kenya, Lamu is one of the largest and most visited islands renowned for its Swahili cultural heritage, donkey sanctuaries, white sandy beaches, pristine blue waters and many cultural and religious festivals. Lamu is definitely the ideal destination for a rejuvenating vacation.

The fastest and most comfortable transport option to Lamu is by flight from Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi. Alternatively, the budget traveler can take a bus from Mombasa or Malindi to Mokowe on the mainland then connect to the Island using Dhows, Yachts, a speedboat or the local ferry.

Once on the Island you will be fascinated by the serenity of the small town which has none of that annoying vehicle traffic, heavy transportation is done on donkey back, and locals move around on foot.

As you walk along the narrow winding paths to tour the town preferably in the evening, you will enjoy the ocean breeze and sight of well-preserved indigenous Swahili settlements, villages built using coral stone and mangrove timber, nestled among coconut and mango plantations, and traditional dhows wobbling with the waves at the dock where the cool waters meet the sandy beach on a stunning backdrop of a warm, golden sunset.

While enjoying the beauty of Lamu, you will hardly experience any criminal incidences as the people of Lamu are very kind, respectful and welcoming to help make your stay enjoyable and most memorable. The sense of community is quite evident during the festivals such as the Lamu Cultural Festival which has been organized by the Lamu Cultural Promotion group since 2001 when Lamu was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The Nairobi Cultural Festival. Image from https://nairobinow.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/out-of-town-15th-lamu-cultural-festival-nov-26-29-2015-lamu-county/
The Lamu Cultural Festival. Image from https://nairobinow.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/out-of-town-15th-lamu-cultural-festival-nov-26-29-2015-lamu-county/

This year, the festival will be held on November 26 to 29 to continue promoting and preserving the unique Swahili heritage of the Lamu Archipelago. Here’s a peek at some of the delights you will be treated to during the three day festival;

1. Traditional dances and live musical performances.
2. Dhow and Donkey races.
3. Poetry competition.
4. Swimming races in the ocean and Football tournaments.
5. Traditional displays of Swahili food and artifacts.
6. Henna body art and design.
7. Revitalizing Yoga sessions.

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