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Fest celebrates Cham culture

The three-day festival is held at the same time as the group's traditional Kate festival.

Various cultural activities like art shows, traditional costume shows, brocade weaving contests, a culinary fair and sports competitions will be organised in four venues: Tourism Site at Poklong Garai Waterfall, the stadium of Huu Duc Village, My Nghiep Brocade Weaving Handicraft Village, and Bau Truc Ceramic Handicraft Village.

A conference on preserving and developing Cham ethnic culture in parallel with promoting tourism will be the key activity at the event, which will gather both scientists and cultural workers.

The event is expected to attract Cham people from nine localities including Binh Thuan, Phu Yen, An Giang, Tay Ninh, HCM City and Dong Nai.

The localities will take turns hosting the event, which will be held every three years.

According to statistics from 2008, the Cham group was ranked 14th in population size when compared to all 54 ethnic groups in the country, with 145,000 members.

Ninh Thuan Province is home to many old monuments of the Cham people, particularly Cham towers.

Currently, two ancient Cham towers in the province were restored at a total cost of more than VND27 million (US$1,300) from the State budget.

The Poklong Garai Tower, built by the Champa kingdom between the last half of the 13th century and early 14th century, is considered as a symbol of Phan Rang City. It's an important relic and tourist attraction and also features three smaller towers, including the Cong, Lua and Chinh towers which range from 8.5m to 21.5m in height.

Chinh Tower was where Cham King Poklong Garai was worshipped. The restoration work on this site included building a new floor and stairs leading up the towers, along with installation of lighting and water supply systems and contraction of a reception house.

The towers are considered as valuable architectural works. Each floor and side is decorated with ceramics and stones in different shapes, some showing humans, dragons and leaf designs that provide insights into the artistic and religious lives of the Cham people.

The second major tower to be restored was the Porome Tower, one of the biggest Cham towers in the region. It was built in the 17th century on a high hill in Ninh Phuoc District.

A leader of the provincial Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism said the two towers had degraded during the past several years and the restoration work was expected to protect and conserve the towers' value as examples of national cultural heritage.

Lo Phu Luong, an ethnic Cham who works as a guard at the Porome Tower, said the tower's restoration was necessary as it was seriously degraded.

"We Cham people are really happy about this work," said Luong. "Thanks to support from the State and Government, we now have a place of worship."