The Lamu Cultural Festival is one of the best attended community-based cultural festivals in Kenya. The festival is a celebration of both the past and future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the very heart and soul of the Lamu community. The aim is to promote the rich Swahili culture, and open up the archipelago to outsiders; to promote the beauty of the island’s landscape and the uniqueness of its people.
Lamu Old Town dates back 700 years and has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco and Shela which brags, rightfully so, of the most attractive sceneries and powdery beaches in the island.
Several competitions, races and activities are often showcased, and these include traditional Swahili poetry, henna painting, bao competitions, swimming races, donkey races, traditional artisan craft making, traditional dancing and music as well as a chance to sample local cuisine.
The most unforgettable events of the festival are the dhow race and the donkey races. These competitions stem from the culture of the Lamu people. Donkeys are ubiquitous features of Lamu Island, and the race is one of the highlights of the festival. 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.
Most visitors to the island fall in love with its relaxed and peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous.