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June 19, 2018

Donkey races, dancing, dhow races and Swahili culture in fest

The donkey races are a prominent feature in the Lamu cultural festival.
The donkey races are a prominent feature in the Lamu cultural festival.

Lamu town hotels and traders hope to reap big from the 17th annual Lamu Cultural Festival from Thursday to Sunday.

Security will be tight.

Officials say no one should be afraid to visit Lamu because adequate security is in place and terrorists have been neutralised.

The political tension in Kenya has also made visitors wary, but security officials say the situation is under control.

Lamu Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Hundreds of domestic and international tourists are expected in Lamu Old Town.

The festival celebrates the rich Swahili culture. It will showcase traditional dances, donkey races, dhow races, swimming competitions, henna painting and other cultural and crafts displays. And plenty of food.

Residents are upbeat the event will boost trade.

Lamu Cultural Promotional Group chairperson Ghalib Alwy yesterday said all is set, despite the financial setbacks they faced during preparations. The event received little sponsorship, compared to previous years, he said.

“We had a shortfall in the amount of cash we required. But we know the festival will be successful,” Alwy said.

Many people have begun flocking to the island, Alwy said. Hotels have registered early bookings from domestic and foreign tourists.

“Some tourists have set up permanent residences here. That’s a good sign,” Alwy added.

Investors will watch closely to see whether the county has regained the confidence of tourists.

In the past four years, Lamu county has suffered terror attacks that have left scores of residents and security officers dead and many more injured.

The county was worst-hit in 2014-15 after terror attacks prompted foreign countries to issue travel advisories. Al Shabaab killed more than 100 people in June 2014 in Mpeketoni.

This prompted the national government to launch the ongoing Linda Boni Operation to flush out militants from the Boni Forest.

Yesterday, Lamu county commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said enough measures have been put in place to ensure adequate security for those travelling to Lamu by road for the festival.

He said adequate security will ensure residents and visitors are safe.

“We are vigilant. We have ensured every area is covered by enough officers. People shouldn’t be scared to come to Lamu by road. We have patrols everywhere and people should feel safe,” Kitiyo said.

The festival is known worldwide. The town is known as The Island of Festivals because of its many annual fetes.

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