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B Side, Culture

The Durbar Festival is a Celebration of Some of Nigeria’s Finest Cultures

The Ilorin Grand Durbar, a festival held on the 2nd or 3rd day of Eid Adha (Sallah), is a cultural event created to demonstrate community harmony and leverage the city’s diversity

  • Adebola Adesuyi
  • 24th June 2024
Durbar Festival

Ilorin is a true demonstration of Nigeria’s rich cultural diversity. Home to indigenous Yorubas, Hausas, Nupes, Fulanis, Barubas, and more, Ilorin stands as proof of the harmonious coexistence of various ethnic groups. This cultural melting pot is magnificently portrayed through the annual Ilorin Grand Durbar, a festival held on the 2nd or 3rd day of Eid Adha (Sallah). HRH Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari CFR, the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman of the Kwara State Traditional Council, envisioned creating a grand cultural event to demonstrate community harmony and leverage the city’s diversity.


In 2017, this vision (Ilorin Durbar)  came to life with the inauguration of the first grand Durbar. Now in its 7th edition, the event is meticulously organized by the Ilorin Emirate Grand Durbar Committee, led by Engr. Suleiman Yahaya FNSE, the Danmasani of Ilorin.


Whether it’s the equestrian skills of horse riders, the colorful costumes, the thrill of adventure, or the enchanting music and talent displays, the Ilorin Durbar always delivers a memorable experience. Held annually in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, this event brings together the distinct traditions of Ilorin’s diverse communities.


Durbar Festival


One of the most interesting moments of the Durbar is the Emir’s procession around the Ilorin metropolis. The Emir, seated in a luxurious horse cart, is accompanied by hundreds of beautifully decorated horses and riders. The procession is further enhanced by the presence of traditional soldiers in military attire, trumpeters, and drummers, creating a majestic spectacle. The Ilorin Durbar also a community celebration. Family houses across Ilorin prepare months in advance, creating uniform colorful outfits unique to their cultural backgrounds. This melting point of community members pays homage to HRH the Emir of Ilorin, presenting gifts as a show of love and loyalty during the celebration of Eid Adha.


Moreover, the Durbar festival is an ancient annual Hausa cultural, religious, and equestrian event, central to the Arewa (Northern Nigerian) Hausa culture. With origins dating back to the 14th century in Kano, this festival is a vital part of Hausa traditions and history.


Known for their skills as horsemen and warriors of the Sahara and Sahel, the Hausas celebrate Durbar in several northern Nigerian cities, including Kano, Katsina, Gombe, Akko, Sokoto, Zazzau, Bauchi, and Bida. The Kano Durbar Festival, a four-day spectacle of opulence and horsemanship, exemplifies this tradition.


Durbar Festival

Beyond Ramadan and Eid al-Adha celebrations, the Durbar festival features grand processions, including horse parades and community festivities, across cities like Katsina, Zaria, Sokoto, Ilorin, Bida, and Bauchi.


Durbar Festival

The festival is also used to mark the end of Ramadan and coincides with the Muslim festivities of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitri. The Kano Durbar Festival is Northern Nigeria’s (Arewa) most spectacular tribal horse parade which marks the celebration of the Hausa Kingdom’s cultural treasure. It begins with prayers at dawn, followed by a colorful mounted parade of the Emir and his retinue of horsemen, musicians, and artillerymen. At the Durbar festivals, noblemen travel to pay homage to the Emir and reaffirm their loyalty to their various emirates.

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