Saturday was observed as rest day by all 16 remaining teams in the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun. However, for journalists covering the tournament, it was a day to explore the city of Garoua and its environs.
The traditional horse race festival by the people of Garoua was holding at the palace of the Emir, a respected traditional ruler of the city.
At midday, a Marco Polo bus was stationed in front of the media centre for journalists, who came from different parts of Africa and the world to embark on a trip. It was full of excitement.
About 15 minutes drive from the city centre along a dusty road under construction amid mountains and dry land used for grazing of cattle, the team arrived at the village.
The first port of call was the museum, which according to Ahmadu Mustapha, was constructed about 100 years ago. Inside the museum were different old cars used by their fathers between 1960s and 1970s.
According to Mustapha, a councillor to the Ciroma of Demsa, the museum was the idea of their forefathers, who had passion for horses.
“Our forefathers used the horse to come from the west to conquer this territory many centuries ago,” Mustapha said.
“Then, their means of transportation was the use of horse to travel long distance across the desert. But today, many people use cars.
“Inside this museum, you see a horse on one side and cow on the other side. What is the relationship between the horse and a cow?” he asked the visiting journalists.
There was silence, and Mustapha provided the answers. “Transportation, luxury, power and wealth.”
After about 20 minutes of sight seeing inside the museum, including photo Op, the team moved to the Emir’s palace (Lamidat De Demsa), where the visiting journalists had opportunity of meeting with the traditional ruler, his palace chiefs and traditional dancers from different parts of the kingdom, who had assembled to perform at the horse race festival.
Young men dressed in their traditional warriors’ attires, mounted the horses, and engaged in a contest from about 100m distance, including racing into the palace with war tools, including a spear.
A few metres to where the Emir and his palace chiefs were sitting, the horse will stop, and the riders take a salute in traditional ways.
The climax of the festival was the traditional troupes, made up of both the young and old, taking their turn to entertain the visiting journalists and people, who came from nearby villages.
Some of the journalists, who understood the dance steps, joined in shaking their body, while others clapped.