Stakeholders push to have Lamu cultural festival extended


Lamu,KENYA:With just two weeks left to the 18th edition of the Lamu Cultural Festival this year, locals and stakeholders are pushing to have the duration of the festival extended.

The Lamu Cultural Festival was officially launched in the year 2000 and is held annually every month of November for four consecutive days.

This year’s edition kicks off on November 22 to 25.

The festival budget this year is Sh.13 Million.

The fete is normally held in Lamu town which was listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2001.

The cultural festival showcases the rich culture and heritage of Lamu’s Swahili communities and is normally preceded by various competitions led by the famous donkey race,swimming,dhow races and a combination of traditional dances.

The festival is renowned for its titillating economic returns that leave many traders and business people reaping larger profits than they would have on their normal business days not to mention the great boost to the tourism sector.

At least 50,000 local and foreign tourists are expected to turn up for the festival this year with this year’s theme being ‘Tembea Lamu’ loosely translated to mean ‘Visit Lamu’.

However many of the locals and stakeholders from the Trade,Tourism,Transport and Hoteliers want the festival extended six days.

Speaking in Lamu town on Friday,Lamu Cultural Promotional Group chairperson and founder of the festival Ghalib Alwy said the major hindrance as to why the group is unable to extend the festival dates is majorly financial.

Alwy says the role played by the festival is not only beneficial Lamu but to the country at large as it is able to market Kenya to larger platforms worldwide.

“A place like Dubai holds a similar festival for a whole month and the returns are just amazing.I wish the same would be in Lamu.Lets even have it for ten days instead of four and see how a single festival can transform not just Lamu but Kenya.The festival not only boost trade,tourism and other sectors but also promotes cohesion and that’s what Kenya stands for,”said Alwy.

He called on the county government of Lamu to consider setting aside funds annually to enable for the extension of the festival in future.

Omar Baishe,a hotelier in Lamu town says he sees no reason why the festival can’t be extended considering the immense benefits in brings to Lamu.

“By the time the festival is ending every single sector here is normally thriving.We make profits that we would otherwise never been able to dream over.Suppose its extended,Lamu can build itself even further,”he said.

Basihe says the festival is important considering previous tag attached to Lamu as an insecure place owing to Al shabaab attacks.

“These festival means a lot but among them is the fact that visitors are able to prove that its back on track irrespective of what happened in the past.It builds their confidence.To do this even more,there is need for the festival dates to be extended,”he added.