Durban festival is an old traditional culture that has come to stay in Northern Nigeria. It is usually celebrated in the Emirates where you have Emirs. The Durban festival stands out unique as it is characterized by traditional ruler riding on horse highly beautified with colourful regalia’s.
Going down memory lane, the Durbar Festival is said to be one of such celebratory festivals. Originally arising from the use of horses during combat hundreds of years ago, the festival was intended to be a military parade of soldiers riding in defense of their Emir. The emir, who served as the military general and prince, had an entourage comprising of regiments from the different emirates of the north.
Presently, the festival revolves around the commemoration of two major festivals in the Muslim year: Eid- el-Fitr (signifying the end of Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting) and Eid-el-Kabir (slaughtering of ram to make sacrifice).
Like other Emirates such as Kano, Katsina among others where the Durban festival is staged, the Zazzau Emirate council is not left out in the Durban festival celebration as the festival is staged out year in year out.
The Zazzau emirate rolled out three hawan (riding on horse) namely Hawan Sallah, Hawan Bariki and Hawan Daushe set aside to mark the Durban festival celebrations.
The council made adequate arrangement to ensure that the festival is a successful one just as corporate organizations of recent have taken interest in the sponsorship of such colourful and historic events.
All roads lead to the Emir’s Palace to catch a glimpse of the Durban festival. Old and young, male and female all troop out en mass on this day.
As for the three days set aside for the festival, each programme (hawan) is rolled out on each day. In the Zazzau emirate, immediately after the Eid the Durban carried out by the Emir is the Hawan Sallah. After performing the Eid prayer (Sallah), the Emir rides on his well dressed horse to greet his people and say happy Sallah celebration to them.
Hawan Bariki – The Emir rides on his horse on this day (day 2) to pay homage on the white people. There was a place where the white men settled those days in Zaria and it is called “Gelesu” and “Baban Dodo”. So the Emir also takes a ride on his horse to this area which is believed to be Government Reserved Areas, GRAs.
Hawan Daushen – which is usually on the third day after the Eid comes about and named after the demise of a man called Daushe. He (Daushe) was a man who rode on his horse to pay homage on the Emir in the palace. However, Hawan Daushe which implies riding horse in memory of Daushe came about after his demise and the Emir felt they should continue with that tradition.
So it became a tradition in his (Daushe’s) memory. Hawan Daushe in Hausa means riding on a horse in memory of the man called Daushe. So, instead of the man riding on a horse to pay homage on the Emir, it is the Emir that rides on a horse to greet the people in memory of Daushe. So that was how it started.
However, ever since the commencement of the tradition the festival has continued to be celebrated except of recent that the entire activities had to be cancelled due to insecurity in the region but had since bounced back again.
There is also a horse race at full gallop across the designated square and ends in front of the Emir’s palace. Then a procession of horsemen into the town with the last horseman to arrive being the emir adorned in all his majesty. At the end the Hakimi’s (District heads) trail behind in group to pay homage to the Emir.
In the process, the best horse with best regalia and such person earns more respect and hailing in the Emirate.
The glistening of swords, drumming, dancing and singing, with a band of performers, intensifies the fanfare. It is quite a sight to behold!
The Durbar Festival is a wonderful event to attend. It is a rich display of culture and a fun in northern Nigerian history.
The essence of the festival is to allow for the Emir to greet his people, see how they are faring and carry out factual sight seeing to improve on the structure and social well being of the people of the area.
Persons who have witnessed the Durban festival also opened up on their experience as to make the salah celebration colourful and merriment.
It is also a gathering that brings together old faces. And these traditional activities normally attract a lot of visitors, both within and outside the state.
It has provided the youths the avenue of the cultural heritage of the area and preserves the tradition; as it offers the people opportunity to see the Emir. The celebration provides also competition among the traditional title holders.
It provides atmosphere for good business for persons who purposely rear horses for this day and events as they smile home with money made from the Durban festival.

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