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10 Best Cultural Festivals in Africa

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” gap=”0″][vc_column responsive_align=”text-lg-center text-md-center text-sm-center text-xs-center”][vc_column_text]Africa is synonymous with exotic sights and sounds and this comes from the fact that there are
54 countries and hundreds of different cultures. Some are influenced by religion while others
showcase Africa’s incredible creative talent, through the mediums of film, art and/or music. Here
are our top 10 cultural festivals in Africa that are worth planning your trip around.

  1. Calabar Festival & Street Parade, Nigeria
    When: December
    Arguably Africa’s biggest street party, this festival happens anywhere from the 1st to the 31st of
    December. It features unmatchable entertainment, spectacular colours, unbeatable activities
    and a vibrant exhibition of culture.
    It began in 2004 and it attracts over two million revellers and features participants from over 25
    different countries. The Battle of the Bands and Street Parade is even broadcast to a television
    audience of around fifty million!
    Here’s a short clip of the colorful street parade.
  2. Cairo International Book Fair

The Cairo International Book Fair is not only the largest book fair in Africa but the second
largest in the world (behind Frankfurt’s humongous event). Drawing more than two million
visitors each year, this enormous literary celebration boasts multi-language lectures and
readings across its three-week run. Attendees can also peruse aisles and aisles of stands
selling titles across every genre imaginable. Far from your average book fair, Cairo International
also has spectacular fireworks to keep the masses entertained.

  1. Cape Town International Jazz Festival, South Africa
    When: March/April
    Jazz legends from all over the world perform for two days at the city’s International Convention
    Centre, Cape Town. Now in its 21st year, the festival routinely attracts crowds of more than
    37,000 people and tickets must be booked well in advance. Past performers range from global

acts like Miles Mosley, Corinne Bailey Rae, and the Gipsy Kings; to South African favorites like
the Ndlovu Youth Choir.

  1. Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco
    When: June
    This spiritual festival has been held every year for more than quarter of a century in Fez,
    Morocco, and hosts musicians and dancers from all over the world. Over the course of the nine-
    day extravaganza, you might see Iranian whirling dervishes or Sufi chanters, dancers from
    America or groups singing sacred Gaelic hymns.
    Performances take place in the city’s Jnan Sbil Gardens or in the historic plaza in front of the
    Royal Palace. Expect to see an abundance of delicious Moroccan street food also.
  2. Zanzibar International Film Festival, Tanzania
    When: July
    Zanzibar International Film Festival has been described as the largest cultural festival in East
    Africa.
    Over the course of nine days, you can enjoy concerts, art exhibitions, readings, and of course,
    film screenings that showcase the best talent from across Africa and the Indian Ocean island
    nations. Dhow races also take place throughout the festival, while workshops empower and
    inspire the next generation of actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers. Over 100,000
    people across race, class and religion gather to celebrate this festival as it offers entertainment
    and networking opportunities for participants from all over the world.
  3. Umhlanga Reed Dance, Swaziland
    When: August/September
    This is Swaziland’s best known cultural event. About 40,000 girls take part in this event. The
    ceremony lasts for eight days during which the young girls cut reeds, present them to the Queen
    Mother and then dance in celebration. They are dressed up in brightly coloured attires – making
    it one of the biggest and most spectacular cultural events in Africa.

Umhlanga Reed Dance is closed to tourists for most of the week. However, the final two days of
the ceremony are open to the public.

  1. Harare International Festival of the Arts, Zimbabwe
    When: April
    Zimbabwe’s Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is an explosion of creative artistic
    work that showcases the resilience and strength of the Zimbabwean people. In 2018,there were
    over 200 performances from over 30 countries over the course of the festival. These ranged
    from Senegalese pop music to Japanese theatre. And the attendance has been growing with
    30,000 tickets sold.
  2. Maitisong Outdoor Festival, Botswana
    When: February
    Now in its 30th year running, this annual event is a favorite among locals and international
    visitors alike. Music is one of the biggest attractions, with gospel, kwaito, and Afro-pop as just
    some of the styles on showcase. The event hosts both free and paid events so that everyone
    has a chance to get in on the action!
  3. International Festival of the Sahara, Tunisia
    When: December
    Attracting more than 50,000 people, Tunisia’s International Festival of the Sahara celebrates the
    rich culture of the Sahara Desert and its people. It takes place every year in the small oasis
    town of Douz.
    Today, the festival is a four-day affair filled with singing, dancing, poetry readings, and feasting.
    Races are a big part of the festivities, with young men competing on horse and camelback.
  4. Timkat Ethiopia
    When: January

This Orthodox celebration is a 3-day celebration, held in towns and cities across the country.
Timkat is an Orthodox Christian occasion to mark the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River
Jordan. People travel to Ethiopia to take part in Timkat which involves processions, singing, and
dancing. Thousands of pilgrims join and dress up in white robes. The waters of the Fasiladas’
bath are blessed on the 19th of January and pilgrims renew their baptism vows.
There you have it.
Our 10 best cultural festivals in Africa. Which one would you make plans to attend? Share this
post and inspire someone to explore Africa.

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