Home to fifty-four nations and countless different ethnic groups and cultures, it is not surprising that Africa hosts a spectacular range of annual festivals. Some are influenced by faith, some by music and dance, and many are a celebration of each country’s unique cultural traditions.
With over 3,000 ethnic groups and around 2,000 different languages, Africa's rich cultural diversity is unparalleled. The continent is home to some of the most spectacular cultural festivals on the planet – everything from food and music to art and nature – in truly spectacular locations such as isolated deserts, medieval cities, cloud forests and enchanted islands.
Visiting a country during festival time is such a great way to enhance one's journey and experience the destination at a deeper level. It is also a great way to interact with the locals as most people are proud of and happy to share their culture with outsiders. Here are some of our favourite local festivals around the continent:
Sauti za Busara – Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania (February)Held every year in February, the Sauti za Busara (Swahili for “Sounds of Wisdom”) is an African music festival, bringing an explosion of East African music and culture to the shores of Zanzibar. This festival takes place in historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the festival’s main venue is in the Old Fort, a stunning piece of Omani colonial architecture which has stood for over 200 years and remains the oldest surviving building in town. This amazing setting for the festival brings up to 20,000 people together in celebration of the wealth and diversity of music and culture from the region. The festival has built an enviable reputation, regionally and internationally, for its quality of music, friendliness, and peaceful atmosphere. This 4-day extravaganza closes with a must-attend grand finale party, with music until dawn, at one of Zanzibar’s fantastic beach locations.
Lake Turkana Cultural Festival – Northern Kenya (June)The Lake Turkana Cultural Festival takes place annually in Loiyangalani, a small town located on the southeastern coast of Lake Turkana. The name means “a place of many trees” in the native Samburu tongue and is home to the El Molo, a vanishing ethnic group. The festival is designed to help foster economic development as well as celebrate and preserve the culture of the communities living in the northern part of Kenya. They include the Turkana, Samburu, Gabbra, Pokot and Borana. Prepare to be mesmerised as these ethnic communities showcase their traditional singing and dancing in their colourful costumes. There is plenty of delicious food to enjoy as the lifestyles and cultures of these communities are brought to light through performance. The journey to the location, through the savannah, is part of the adventure.
Omo Valley Tribal Festivals – Omo Valley, Ethiopia (all year)Ehiopia’s Omo Valley is home to eight primary tribes and another ten sub-tribes, each possessing their own distinct language and culture, despite their close proximity to one another. Due to the uniqueness of each tribe and their individual customs, there are always fascinating and colourful festivals and ceremonial events being celebrated throughout the year.
Some of the more intriguing are: the Hamar tribe’s coming-of-age bull jumping ritual in Turmi; the Mursi tribe’s Donga stick fighting tournament where tribal warriors battle for honour; the Hamar tribe’s Evangadi dance, where young boys and girls perform their courtship dance to find a mate; the Dassenech tribe's Dimi circumcision ceremony where young men don leopard skin and ostrich feathers for the event; and finally the most unusual, the Bodi tribe’s Ka’el festival where young men feast on a diet of blood, milk and honey over a three-month period leading up to the festival, and the one with the fattest stomach is victorious.
No matter when you visit this fascinating region, you will be sure to find some unique local celebration taking place.
Most festivals are a time of celebration, so it is a wonderful opportunity to see how the locals honour their culture and traditions, and in doing so, keep them alive.
There is a festival, celebration or special event happening somewhere in Africa every month of the calendar, and your A2A Travel Consultant will be happy to advise and guide you if you are interested in observing or participating in a festival or two during your trip.
Related Activities in Cultural Festivals
Ready for your trip?
Let us help you plan everything.
We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.