Having existed for over a thousand years, Lamu is one of the oldest towns in Kenya and also among the original Swahili settlements along the coast of East Africa. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Lamu is home to some of the oldest mosques in the world including the Riyadha Mosque, which is the center of the Maulid Festival.
The Maulid Festival, which marks the birth of the Prophet Mohamed, has been celebrated on Lamu Island for over 100 years. Around this time, there’s a lot of singing, dancing, fun activities and a general jovial mood on the island. The month-long festivities culminate in a 3-day festival that draws pilgrims and visitors from around the world.
The visitors come to witness the wide range of activities including recitals of praise poems, song and dance, and art and calligraphy displays. There are also board games, henna painting, donkey and dhow races and swimming tournaments. The festivities are inviting and visitors are encouraged to join in the fun.
A highlight of the festival takes place on the last day when the men of Lamu gather at the town’s cemetery, surrounding the tomb of Habib Swaleh, the man who started the festival over a hundred years ago. After a prayer vigil, groups of men and boys begin a procession into town, singing and dancing. This lively parade winds through the town’s narrow alleyways, lined by cheering spectators.
Go on a vacation to Lamu and experience the Maulid festival. Combine your visit with tours of Lamu’s Old Town, the Sultan Fort, the Lamu Museum and the town’s largest open-air market. At these sites, visitors can learn more about the island and the fascinating Swahili culture. The Maulid festival attracts high numbers of locals and tourists alike so it’s advisable to book your tours and accommodation in advance.
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