Monday, October 13, 2008

The 20th good thing about Northern Nigeria: The Katsina Durbar Festival!

The Durbar Festivals in Kano and Katsina are some of the most spectacular displays in Nigeria. "The Durbar festival dates back hundreds of years to the time when the Emirate (state) in the north used horses in warfare. During this period, each town, district, and nobility household was expected to contribute a regiment to the defense of the Emirate. Once or twice a year, the Emirate military chiefs invited the var­ious regiments for a Durbar (military parade) for the Emir and his chiefs. During the parade, regiments would showcase their horsemanship, their preparedness for war, and their loyalty to the Emirate. Today, Durbar has become a festival celebrated in honor of vis­iting Heads of State and at the culmination of the two great Muslim festivals, Id-el Fitri (commemorating the end of the holy month of Ramadan) and Ide-el Kabir (commemorating Prophet Ibrahim sacrificing a ram instead of his son)."

I'm just sorry I just had a regular digital camera -- it didn't have a big zoom lens and the video I could take from that distance was very limited. The pictures really don't do justice to the resplendence of the whole thing.

After the way was cleared for the parade, the procession began.
Some groups just walked in, others rode on horseback.

One made his grand entrance on stilts. Many entourages had a sign in front announcing where they were from.

There were acrobats...

and a lot of music and dancing.

After the groups processed through the crowd, they entered the large public square in front of the palace and took their positions.

We had a great viewpoint in the raised viewing stand, but the crowd below had to improvise to get a view. Those with motorbikes stood on the seat.
And some boys climbed the tree to get a better look at the action.The parade went on for almost two hours.

When most the groups had entered the square, they cleared a path down the center for the Emir and his regiment to enter.

They had more musicians leading the way.

Before the Emir made his way in, the square was full of celebrants.

The Emir came last in the procession, under an umbrella which was constantly in motion, surrounded by men on camels and men waving fans.

While a path was cleared in the center, many regiments raced toward the Emir, raising their swords to salute him.

The Emir addressed his subjects in a speech that was unintelligible to us, even if we could understand the language he was speaking (probably Hausa, but I'm not sure.) But the crowd below seemed to hang on every word.

And then, after the Emir and his entourage left and other groups began to disperse, there was what seemed to me to be the height of stupidity -- a crowd gathered around this car that was speeding around in circles. When I looked closer with our binoculars, I saw that there was no driver inside -- it was controlled remotely. Paulette said this strange addition to the show was a regular part of the festival. The car was circling so close to the crowd, and at such a speed, I was fully expecting to see it careen straight into them. It was a bizarre end to a spectacular show.

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