Kenya is an incredibly culturally diverse country. Historically a country with over 70 different migratory tribes, each one has its own unique culture and sense of community. Though Kenya has been significantly modernised over the years, the ties to these cultural identities still remain strong, as do the festivals and cultural events they hold dear. Here are the top 5 festivals you don’t want to miss when you relocate to Kenya.
Lake Turkana Festival, May
Lake Turkana is a lake in Northern Kenya which crosses into Ethiopia to the north.
One of the best things about the Lake Turkana festival is that it is about putting aside cultural differences, helping foster a sense of peace and community across the area. Featuring unique performances from ten different communities which are local to the Lake Turkana region, traditional food and dancing, there is a fantastic range of things to try and see at this festival.
International Camel Derby, August
Another festival from the north of Kenya, the International Camel Derby in Samburu has been growing in popularity over the years. Since its inception in the early 90s, this event has drawn visitors from around the world, bringing colour, culture and the finest racing camels to the area.
Mombasa Carnival, Early November
Often touted the most popular festival in all of Kenya, the Mombasa Carnival is a huge event by the side of the Indian Ocean held in early November. The festival features a huge range of different cultures from across the country, all meeting in one of the biggest cultural hubs in East Africa. With colourful parade floats, spectacular traditional dress, dance and music, the Mombasa Carnival is a true delight to behold. Anyone visiting Mombasa in early November is in for a treat with the opportunity to sample dishes from across Kenya thanks to the street vendors who have set up shop.
Lamu Cultural Festival, Late November
Lamu is a small island and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Eastern Kenya, and home to several unique festivals well worth seeing. The Lamu Cultural Festival is an opportunity for the local community to get together and celebrate both their past and their future. This festival also offers a unique insight into what Kenyan life used to be like, with poetry, henna painting, donkey races, dhow sailing and even the architecture on display. The festival usually ends in a traditional Swahili wedding with traditional Swahili food. If you’re looking for a deeply traditional festival in Kenya, the Lamu Cultural Festival should definitely be on your bucket list.
Maulidi Festival, December
The significant majority of Kenya is Christian – as of 2010, only 7 per cent of the Kenyan population is Muslim. This doesn’t stop the Maulidi Festival in Lamu being one of the most prominent Islamic celebrations in the region, drawing thousands of Muslims from across East Africa and the Middle East to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. The National Museum of Kenya has sponsored the Maulidi Festival since the 1990s, putting on all manner of events and attractions for people coming to the island to celebrate. Despite the international crowd, the music, dance and culture seen in Lamu during this festival are still uniquely Swahili. A truly spectacular sight to see for anyone who manages to get to Lamu for the festival.