The JJC's guide to enjoying the Durbar Festival in Nigeria

The Durbar Festival is an annual festival celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan and Sallah in northern cities of Nigeria.

The Muslim holidays are a time of sombre reflections, goodwill and parades. Here is what you need to know if you're attending the most exotic of the muslim/northern festivals, The Durbar Festival.

Quick information

Durbar festival, or Hawan Daushe, is Northern Nigeria's cultural treasure. The Durbar is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, Eid el-Fitr, and at the start of the pilgrimage to Mecca, Eid el-Kabir. It dates back 200 years when horses were used in warfare to protect the Emirate. The emir, who served as the military general and prince, had an entourage comprising of regiments from the different emirates of the north. However, the event has turned more celebratory than anything else.

The best states/cities to witness the Durbar Festival is Kano, Bida in Niger state, Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna and Bauchi. In these cities, the festival is considered a major tourist attraction, with attendees from all over the world. However, Katsina is known as the grandest of all the festivals.

What to expect

The Durbar festival usually starts out with prayers and the national anthem outside the town or in front of the government house, and then a procession of horsemen in colourful regalia, including the emir's family, into the town. The last horseman of the parade to arrive is the emir beautifully adorned in beautiful traditional attire, shielded from the sun by a massive twirling parasol.

The festival is filled with many sites and activities happening at the same time.

Horsemen: You might see roaring muskets flash salutes as thousands of warrior horsemen race onto the parade ground. They also wield glistening swords to honour the emir.

Animal display: Adorned houses, baboons, hyenas, camels and pythons.

Regalia: Colourful robes, indigo turbans and ostrich feathers.

Entertainment: Traditional dances and displays by different groups, traditional drums, trumpets and flutes, flipping acrobats and jesters.

Food: Lots of food vendors around the parade ground

Things that might shock you: gun salutes, stick fights, knife plays, fire stunts and other interesting demonstrations.

The Jahi race: The Jahi race is the highlight of the Durbar and the last item on the agenda of the Hawan Daushe. Several horse riders in the emirate charge on top speed towards the emir, then suddenly pull aside upon reaching him,and raise their sword or flag before taking their exit.

As a tourist

It is a wonderful time to get henna done and dress in northern regalia, but you don't have to if you don't want to. Picture taking is very much allowed. You will probably find some horseriders who will give the opportunity to climb their horses to take pictures. Check out how to stay safe in Northern Nigeria.

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