Wednesday, 16 November 2011



The Durbar festival dates back hundreds of years to the time when the Emirate (state) in the north of N igeria 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 – but sadly not their poo-picking skills. Today, Durbar has become a festival celebrated in honour 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, which his Mrs Ibrahim must have been dead pleased about – not to mention the son).

We recently attended the Durbar  festival in the Jigawa town of Dutse, perhaps not  the most mag­nificent or  spectacular in Nigeria, but still highly impressive and entertaining. Id-el-Kabir, or Sallah Day, begins with prayers out­side town, followed by processions of horsemen through the streets. Each surrounding village, town, district, and noble house is represented with riders and horses dressed magnificently. Last  to arrive, apart from the security jeep, is the Emir and his splendid retinue of guards and fan-wavers; they make their way to the front of the palace to receive the jahi, or homage, of their subjects. The whole  fanfare is intensified by drumming, dancing and singing – oh! and yes, the guy wearing shades and listening to his i-pod while rollerskating through the procession – a nod to the 21st century or just a local teenager getting in on the act?.

We did a lot of snapping and videoing and then noticed that at times the procession stopped so that those on horseback could take snaps of us!

In Katsina the festival begins with each group racing across the square at full gallop, swords glinting in the sun. They pass just few feet away from the Emir, then stop abruptly to salute him with raised swords. Failing to stop abruptly with raised sword would probably result in a life being stopped abruptly.

 After the celebrations, the Emir and his chiefs retire to the palace probably to watch African Magic or a Premier League Match (probably Chelsea), and have a nice cup of tea and a Hob Nob before going to bed.
 I was virtually instructed by a mobile TV crew  to be interviewed as the bature (white man –an old one at that) on the street. I spoke of the event in wondrous terms. ‘How would I set about advertising the event overseas?’ I was asked.  ‘Well actually that is not my job, thankfully, but before you can even begin to think in terms of mass tourism you’ve got to……’(don’t get me started!)

No comments:

Post a Comment