By JAMES WANZALA
For a long time, Northern Kenya , previously known as the Northern Frontier district has been associated with negative stereotypes including intercommunity clashes and ravaging droughts.
Overshadowed by this perception, is the existence of cultures whose spectacular diversity was the highlight of the just concluded Kalacha Cultural Festival. But hoteliers and accommodation units registered lucrative business during this year’s Kalacha Cultural Food and Music Festival 2013 in Kalacha town, Marsabit County.
Even nearby lodges registered a good number of visitors. Godana Hersi, Towner of the akuma Smart Resort in Kalacha town, said business was good compared to months prior to the festival.
“We have19 rooms, five with singles and six with double beds and all of them were booked during the festival month, which raised my earnings by 40 per cent compared to the previous month,” said Godana.
He said though he has been receiving visitors, during the Kalacha festival, he was overwhelmed by the bookings and was forced to refer some visitors to nearby lodges.
The annual event brought together various communities in Northern Kenya to share and celebrate their cultural diversity and promote tourism. It was a festival aimed at promoting cultural diversity, social harmony and sustainable development.
Marsabit County boasts of major attractions like Koobi Fora, Marsabit National Park, salt water springs, Rock Art at Afkaba Water Catchment, the Chalbi Desert and its salt patches among many others.
unique flora and fauna
Marsabit County Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Grace Galmo said the county government would hold an investor’s conference on October 5, to identify the tourism potential of the county and encourage investment.
The Secretary said they held a Miss Marsabit County Tourism pagent last week, adding that the winner will help publise the tourism potential of the county.
Kalacha, is an Oasis settlement located in the southeastern corner of the Chalbi Desert about 700 km from Nairobi by road.
The festival was held in the midst of scenic acacia woodlands situated about three kilometres northwest of Kalacha town along the Kalacha-North Horr road. According to Kivulini Trust Executive Director, Dr Hussein Isack, Kalacha Festival was an eye opener for the county’s great tourism potential.
“Marsabit County boasts of major attractions including Koobi Fora prehistoric site, Marsabit National Park, Chalbi Desert, Mount Kulal biosphere reserve, sacred mountains and various rock art sites such as the one at Afkaba Hill among many others.
“This is land that is home to us has unique characteristics being the cradle of Mankind with the world’s largest desert and alkaline lake and many tourist attractions that have not been exploited yet,” said Dr Hussein during the opening of the three-day festival.
Dr Hussein said Kivulini Trust will turn the place into a regional cultural centre with a museum, a technological complex and a cultural university where community members will advance their culture and skills.
The festival showcased the diversity of the region’s rich cultural and natural heritage through artistic expression, exhibitions of traditional foods, dance, poetry, camel parades, plays, medicinal plants and demonstration of traditional technology.
The Kalacha Cultural Festival was organised by Kivulini Trust, and sponsorsed by The Christensen Fund and National Cohesion and Integration Commission among others.
Speaker of Marsabit County Mathews Loltome challenged the organisers to make the festival a revenue earner and not just a celebratory event.
Former Director General of the National Museums of Kenya Dr George Abungu, an archeologist said the event provided communities an opportunity to interact and share experiences.
“The festival has opened my eyes to the rich tourism potential and resources this area has contrary to the idea that the area is just full of conflicts,’’ he said.
Marsabit Governor Ukur Yattani said the festival showcased opportunities that aid in developing the county.