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All roads lead to Arusha this December

By | October 27th 2011

A new annual festival is aimed at getting East Africans to tour the region and enjoy its delights this festive season, writes SONIA NJOGU

A group of event planners have organised a festival that will get East Africans to visit their neighbours this December.

Set for Arusha in December 21-31, the Mashariki Holiday Festival 2011 is the first of annual trips that will revolve around the region’s travel hotspots.

It aims to get a 1,000 families, couples and individuals to tour Arusha during this Christmas season.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative at a Nairobi hotel, the chairman of Brand Kenya, Hannington Gaya said that East Africa yearns for the day it shall be united by one language, regional economy, currency and purpose.

He said: "Our borders are less opaque than they used to be; our work permit regimes are more relaxed than they were in the past; and our people are freely shifting across the academic boundaries to seek knowledge regionally."

Article 31 of the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance established by the African Union Assembly in 2006 underpins the importance of organising cultural events such as festivals, symposia, sporting events and arts exhibitions in order to achieve integration.

The East African Community also reaffirms the need to promote diverse cultural expressions within the context of globalisation and regionalisation.

"The Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have enjoyed close educational, scientific, social, economic and cultural ties for their mutual benefit. The EAC partner States recognise the role that culture plays in social cohesion, solidarity, stability and identity," says Eric Muriithi of Blaze Entertainment Ltd, one of the organisers.

The organisers have put together the festival at Arusha’s five-star Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge with activities that will include themed cultural days and gala nights, game drives to the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the Arusha National Park, a golf tournament, educational tours and nature walks, daily entertainment for teens and children, bush dinners and video presentations and lectures focusing on the region’s rich cultural heritage and the potential that exists for exploitation within the region.

Says Muriithi: "We want to showcase and promote our diverse and rich African culture, heritage and economic potential and we hope that the Mashariki Holiday Festival will become one of the most effective private sector vehicles for facilitating and accelerating the integration process in the region."

Ngurdoto is an extravagant lodge situated between Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro. It boasts 242 rooms, three restaurants and an 18-hole golf course.

Patrons may choose three, five or ten-day packages and the arrival date will be Wednesday December, 21.

Quite and expensive affair, the festival seems out of reach for many Kenyans.

Those sleeping in standard rooms will pay $195 (Sh19,500) for a single and $290 (Sh29,000) for a double per night while those in deluxe rooms will part with $305 (Sh30,500) for a double and $205 (Sh20,500) for a single per night.

Cottages will cost $320 (Sh32,000) for a double while villas with a capacity of eight people will go for $2,000 (Sh200,000).

For children sharing with adults, it will be free for ages zero to three, $50 (Sh5,000) for ages four to six and 75 per cent of the adults’ rates for ages seven to 12.

Transport charges will be $700 (Sh70,000) for an eight seater van, $40 (Sh4,000) per person for those travelling by shuttle and $300 (Sh30,000) for a return flight.

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