Thousands flock in Lamu for Maulid

Pilgrims during the 2016 Lamu Maulid Festival. PHOTO: COURTESY.

Lamu, KENYA: At least 30,000 Muslim pilgrims and other guests are attending the ongoing Maulid Festival in Lamu.

This is the 131st edition of the festival normally marked annually by a section of Muslims in commemoration of the birth of prophet Mohamed (S.A.W) in the holy city of Mecca in 570AD.

The festival is marked every third month of the Islamic calendar.

The four-day festival kicked off on Tuesday, December 4th and is expected to end on Friday, December 7th.

Speaking in Lamu on Thursday, the Lamu Maulid Festival organizing secretary Ahmed Badawi said this year’s festival has the highest number of attendees.

He said apart from Lamu, they had received pilgrims and visitors from all around the globe including Tanzania, Uganda, Comoros Island, Turkey, the Middle East, Zanzibar, Pemba, and other areas.

“We have the best reception ever this year with at least 30,000 people in attendance of this year’s Maulid festival. These are not just Muslim pilgrims but as well as visitors who just want to witness and have a feel of what the festival is like,” said Badawi.

The festival is known for incorporating fun activities in the celebrations which include the famous donkey, Jahazi and Kasa races, dhow races, poetry competitions among others.

Visitors also got a chance to enjoy free medical camps that have drawn in over 40 medical specialists from various countries who are now camping in Lamu and attending to all those interested.

Common ailments that were being attended to include Tuberculosis, Asthma, Diabetes, High Blood pressure, dental and eye problems.

There were also free surgical clinics courtesy of the festival organizers who brought in surgeons from Turkey and other countries.

The festival is known to boost tourism and trade in the region.

Lamu town is already flocked with traders from as far as Mombasa and Nairobi who are seeking to cash in from the high number of visitors attending the festivals.

Lamu is among the oldest living towns in Kenya and the East African Coast and is one of the original Swahili settlements along Coastal East Africa which has existed for at least a thousand years.

The Old Town was among the first urban centers at the coast region to embrace Islam and holds some of the oldest mosques and centers of Islamic learning in the world.

The Riyadha Mosque in Lamu founded in the late 19th Century by Swalih bin Alawi Jamal al-Layl is the center of the Maulid festival.

The mosque is the longest continuously functioning and historically one of the most influential Islamic teaching institutions in Coastal East Africa.

The old town is also a Unesco world heritage site having been listed in 2001.