If you are in Sarawak in the beginning of June, you’re in for a big treat! The colourful and magnificent Gawai Dayak Festival throughout the state will be in full swing. Once you’ve participated in the merry-making, you’ll be glad that you took the trip to Sarawak for this occasion! This religious and social festival is celebrated by the Dayak people of Sarawak, namely the Iban and the Bidayuh. During this time friends and family would visit each other and to renew old ties.
Within Sarawak, MASWings have many flights connecting major cities, such as Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri to each other. If you are a visitor from Sabah or Brunei, MASWings also has regular flights connecting these destinations to the major cities in Sarawak. If you want to experience the joyful Gawai Dayak Festival, Sarawak is the place to be in come early June.
A traditional Gawai celebration in an Iban longhouse would kick off on the evening of 31st May where an offering ceremony called ‘miring’ would be conducted to honour the spirits. The Dayak people living in the cities would normally travel back to the longhouse for Gawai eve. Most rooms in the longhouse would be decorated with the beautifully woven Pua Kumbu, a traditional. After the miring ceremony is over, a big feast would start. Every family in the longhouse would contribute towards the food. Here, mouth-watering traditional Iban delicacies such as ayam pansuh or bamboo chicken and glutinous rice would be served. The famous Iban rice wine, known as tuak, which is brewed one month prior to Gawai would be served. As the night carries on, the celebration becomes less formal with traditional Iban dances and poetry being performed.
The city dwellers that stayed behind in the city during Gawai eve would hold their own similar gathering in their houses or even in the restaurants. On the first day of Gawai, there would be an open house where visitors would come over to their Dayak friends’ house. Traditional Dayak cakes such as sarang semut, penganan celup and penganan iri would be served to them. Of course, the obligatory tuak would also be on the menu! In fact, visitors to a longhouse would customarily be served several rounds of tuak as a welcome drink. Do expect to be constantly offered tuak doing your visit here. This offering of tuak to visitor is called nyibur temuai or the watering of guests. This is a sign of respect and hospitality towards the guests. Regardless whether you are visiting a longhouse or an urban home, you are guaranteed a warm welcome from your host!
There would also be open houses organised by Dayak associations on the days on Gawai day itself and several days after Gawai to highlight the rich culture and tradition of the Dayak community. Do take this opportunity to immerse yourself in the festivities. It is an experience of a lifetime.
If you want to visit Sarawak, then the Gawai season is the right place to do so. The close-knit atmosphere and the merry-making will enchant you for the days to come as a reminder of your stay in the exotic Land of the Hornbills. Come and see what awaits you in Sarawak during Gawai Dayak!