Cultural Festivals in Kenya
1. Lamu Cultural Festival
Lamu Cultural Festival is a celebration of both the past and the future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the heart and soul of the Lamu community. Every year Lamu comes to life during the Lamu Cultural Cultural Festival which is a three-day event highlighting Lamu’s heritage, as Kenyans come together to celebrate both the past, future, the beliefs and traditions that are the heart and soul of this community in the lovely enchanting island of Lamu. An ancient Swahili township, Lamu is a World Heritage site and the cultural festival offers an insight of how life in the old days was in terms of architecture and lifestyle. Most visitors to the Lamu Island fall in love with this relaxed and peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous.
Several competitions and races are staged during this week long festival annually in November, with exciting activities such as traditional Swahili poetry, henna painting, donkey races and dhow sailing, culminating with a traditional Swahili wedding and a chance to enjoy various Swahili dishes. This annual festival gives one a chance to experience the traditional beliefs that are very deeply engraved with the locals and learn more about their simple and peaceful lifestyle.
A dhow race is also held, The town’s finest dhows are selected to compete, and race under sail through a complicated series of buoys, combining speed with elaborate tacking and maneuvering skill. Other events include swimming, and at times a challenging cross country race along the waterfront, all the way to Shela village and back- all in the physically draining heat of the day.
The real highlight of every festival involves the town’s most endearing symbol- the donkey race. Local donkey jockeys literally spend the entire year honing their riding skills for this event, and the winning rider wears his title with great pride. Being a winning donkey jockey requires a specific set of skills. As with most such races, small physical stature is helpful, but keeping a stubborn donkey moving and on course requires a definite talent.
2. Lake Turkana Festival
The lake Turkana Festival takes place annually in Loiyangalani, a small town located on the south-eastern coast of Lake Turkana. The name means “a place of many trees” in the native Samburu tongue and is home to the El Molo, an almost extinct community, amongst other communities. Its main industries include fishing, tourism and gold panning.
The uniqueness about this annual festival that is usually held around May is the fact the festival helps to overcome stereotypes and creates a mutual understanding of different cultures and promotes peaceful coexistence. The event features unique performances and demonstrations of ten different ethnic communities which live in the Lake Turkana region. With traditional dances and a chance to taste various foods from these communities as well as being able to visit their unique huts and get a taste to experience life in Loiyangani in Northern Kenya. The presentation of the customs and living conditions of the ten tribes, their spectacular traditional costumes arts and crafts, dances and music is a fascinating experience that leaves one with a positive perception of the Lake Turkana region.
3. International Camel Derby Festival
The Maralal Camel Derby is an annual event, held midyear just outside of Maralal town northern kenya Samburu . This is Kenya’s best known and most prestigious camel race, attracting both local and international competitors. The Derby attracts contenders from all over the world since it started in the early 90s with camel races, cycling races for both amateurs and professional races alike. Each year the Carmel Derby brings colour and action to the streets of Maralal as the finest camels gather for the big race. Maralal is a haven for nomadic cultures and the town is a popular stopover for travellers looking for some form of adventure in the great unspoilt wilderness areas. With difficult routes running through the semi-desert regions, the Camel Derby is such an exciting event for anyone wishing to compete and a chance to experience culture, colour, action and adventure firsthand!
4. Rhino Charge
This unique off-road car rally is held every year to raise money for conservation of the Aberdare Ecosystem. The Aberdares National Park is a sanctuary for the endangered Black Rhino and an important water catchment area providing water to the Tana and Athi rivers, Kenya’s main rivers. The Aberdares is a hidden world of wildlife; its thick vegetation provides perfect cover for countless species.
A variety of vehicles aim to reach designated checkpoints scattered over approximately 100 square kms of rough terrain in the shortest distance possible. During the rally, teams have to make the decision between taking a safer, wider route or taking a riskier more direct route. The teams must then plot the control points on the map and decide their route. Navigation is by compass or GPS and the winner is the competitor who visits all controls in the shortest distance, GPS measured.
Hundreds of spectators head into the bush to watch the event, setting up campsites and starting off early to get to the Gauntlet (a combination of 2 or 3 checkpoints that invariably involve water crossings and other difficult obstacles).
5. Safari Rally
The Safari Rally is one of the most popular events in the Kenyan calendar with both the young and old alike. Since its onset in 1953 in honour of Queen Elizabeth, the KCB Safari Rally is an internationally acclaimed event and a significant part of Kenya’s history. It is a sport loved by the Kenyan people and draws attention of people different ages and cultures both locally and internationally. A fast paced race through the wilderness of Kenya where drivers have to negotiate through rough terrains and assortments of wildlife. The Safari Rally is one sport that attracts many visitors alike and has become a part of Kenyan culture.