Horsemen wearing brightly coloured warrior robes and bearing spears rode through the streets of Zaria in northern Nigeria during the annual Durbar festival. Crowds turned out to greet their traditional ruler during a thousand-year-old tradition in a region hit by Boko Haram.

Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A horseman waits to take part in the Durbar festival parade in Zaria, NigeriaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Reuters photographer Afolabi Sotunde's colourful photos show warriors from villages and towns in Nigeria's Muslim north who had travelled to the Emir's palace in Zaria. Each area of the ruler's traditional constituency presented their turbaned chiefs and warriors in a mark of respect.

Several men demonstrated their horse-riding skills on the unpaved parade ground. Some women and girls also walked during the procession.

Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A horseman, dressed like a gladiator, takes part in the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
Horsemen take part in the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A tribal leader smiles as he waits for the start of the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A horse ridden by a young prince rears up during the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A snake charmer with a python in his mouth takes part in the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A tribal leader on horseback waits to take part in the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A horseman carries a young child as they take part in the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
Horsemen take part in the Durbar festival parade in Zaria, NigeriaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Alhaji Shehu Idris, Emir of Zazzau, rode to his palace in a horse-drawn carriage to kick off the celebrations, marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.

The thousands who packed the streets and minarets of mosques to watch were a far cry from last year when many stayed away following an attack by Boko Haram fighters that killed some 35 people in Zaria.

Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
Spectators watch from a mosque minaret to try to get a better view of the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
People watch the Durbar parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
Security forces walk alongside the The Emir as he rides on a horse carriage during the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
The Emir rides on a horse carriage during the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria
Spectators wait for the start of the Durbar festival parade in ZariaAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A man pays homage to The Emir during the Durbar festival paradeAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
The traditional guards of The Emir sit before him during the homage-paying ceremony at the Durbar festival paradeAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Durbar festival Zaria Nigeria
A guard of The Emir stands at his doorAfolabi Sotunde/Reuters

The Nigerian military has retaken much of the territory lost to the jihadists. However, police cars and gun-wielding police officers posted in front of the palace were a reminder that suicide bombs by the group remain part of life in the northern region of the oil producing country.

Zaria saw clashes between the army and Shia Muslims in December 2015 in which rights groups say hundreds of Shias were killed. The army confirmed people were killed in the clashes but has never commented on the death toll.