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This is Durbar Festival: Nigeria's spectacularly colourful horse parade

Take a look at Durbar Festival: Niger's most spectacular horse parade
Take a look at Durbar Festival: Niger's most spectacular horse parade Copyright Sani Maikatanga/AP
Copyright Sani Maikatanga/AP
By Theo Farrant with AP
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The end of Eid al-Adha in Nigeria is celebrated each year at the Durbar Festival, which features huge horse parades all across the country. But why are horses so significant in Nigerian culture?


All across Nigeria, thousands of Muslim worshippers and horse lovers gathered to celebrate Durbar Festival - a spectacular display of religious and equestrian festivities. 

The annual event marks the culmination of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha.

Nigeria's annual horse parade

During the festival, a huge procession of men dressed in traditional robes and turbans ride colourfully dressed horses through the streets of several Nigerian cities, including Kano, Bida, Sokoto and Katsina. 

This year, dozens of horse riders from different regions gathered in Bida, a town located in the Niger state, to take part in the vibrant celebration of culture, history and tradition. 

"Well, I feel honoured first of all, because it's a family tradition, we have all loved riding horses since we were little kids. So, whenever we grow up we see ourselves riding horses during the Sallah (Eid al-Adha).

"It's an honour for us. Like, the joy you feel is different, you feel like you are on top of the world," explains Ibrahim Ahmad, a horse rider who came to Bida from Kano state. 

Aside from horses and religion, music also plays a hugely significant role in the Durbar Festival. 

Large bands perform traditional bazaar and Western African music alongside performances from energetic dancers and stuntmen. 

What does the horse signify in Nigerian culture?

Fati Abubakar/AP
Men ride on a horse back during a Durbar festival to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in Zazzau, NigeriaFati Abubakar/AP

The Durbar festival dates back over 200 years when horses were used in warfare to protect the Emirate. 

Each noble household was expected to defend the Emirate by performing as a regiment to showcase their horsemanship and readiness for war. 

"During the colonial rule, there used to be an order where the Emir would take a horse back from his Palace to the residents of the colonial masters in those days, to pay homage, you know, as part of the festivity. And this has been going on since the colonial era," says the horse riders' leader, Alhaji Mustapha Abubakar-Bida.

Abubakar-Bida explains that the horse is regarded as a symbol of strength and power in Nigeria. 

"Horse riding traditionally is very, very significant. The horse signifies your strength. During the war it's by the number of horses that you have that you shows the level of strength you can portray," he says. 

Horses have played a fundamental role in Nigerian society since as early as the 14th century. They were crucial to the expansion of trade across the Sahara with Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. 

Check out the video above for a look at this year's Durbar Festival parade

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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