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Maulid fest success signals good December holiday, traders say

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By KALUME KAZUNGU
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Traders in Lamu Old Town reaped huge profits as this year’s 131st edition of the Lamu Maulid Festival came to an end on Friday.

Hoteliers, boat operators, small traders and fishermen who spoke to the Nation on Friday expressed satisfaction that the Maulid festival had been successful because of the high number of tourists and visitors who attended.

The festival is marked annually by a section of Muslims in remembrance of the birth of Prophet Mohamed in the holy city of Mecca in 570AD.

The traders who graced this year’s festival were drawn from across Lamu County, including Mpeketoni, Faza, Hindi, Mokowe, Manda, Mkokoni and far flung Islands in Lamu East.

Mr Ghalib Alwy, who is the former Lamu Tourism Board chairman and proprietor of the Lamu Bush Gardens Seafront Hotel, said the high turnout of visitors had worked to their advantage.

“We are happy as traders. The festival has provided a much needed platform for us to reap bigger profits just in four days. We are happy that very many domestic tourists came for the festival. We also appreciate the international tourists who turned up for the festival,” said Mr Alwy.

Mr Charo Karisa, who is a guest house attendant in Lamu town, said the festival as attended by many Muslim faithful and tourists.

“I can confidently say that within the four days, we made more than we ever make in a normal month,” said Mr Karisa.

Mr Ali Bunu of the Lamu Sunsail Hotel said business had been good for hoteliers throughout the Maulid period.

“We have had good business in terms of bookings and general increased clientele during Maulid and we are glad. In fact this is a good sign that the December festive season will be good businesswise,” said Mr Bunu.

On Thursday, which was the climax of the festival, locals and tourists witnessed various activities ranging from traditional dancing with performances of the Goma la Lamu and Kirumbizi dances at the Riyadha Mosque Grounds.

Other activities involved included Q’uran Kareem Memorisation, Islamic calligraphy competition, swimming, donkey, dhow sailing among others.

The festival also gave opportunity to residents and visitors to benefit from free medical camps by various medical specialists from outside the country, including Turkish doctors.

Free medical services provided included checkups, medicines and medical advice and tests for various ailments including tuberculosis, asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Maulid Festival organizing secretary Ahmed Badawi said this year’s event was bountiful.

“This year’s Maulid was attended by Muslim faithful from countries like Tanzania, Yemen, Omani, Comoros Islands, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Middle East, the United Kingdom (UK), and Turkey among other countries. We are happy the festival was very successful,” said Mr Badawi.

Lamu is among Kenya’s oldest towns and also one of the original Swahili settlements along coastal East Africa which has existed for at least a thousand years.

The town was enlisted a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001 and boasts of  having some of the oldest mosques and centers of Islamic learning in the world.

The Riyadha Mosque, which is the centre of the Maulid festival, is the longest continuously functioning and historically one of the most influential Islamic teaching institutions in the Swahili world.

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