Interesting African Festivals – Celebrate The African Way!

The next time you contemplate going on any of the festivals around the world, consider travelling on a safari and combine it with a festival, such as a wine festival in the Cape, South Africa or a music and cultural festival in Mozambique, or perhaps the Lamu festival in Kenya whilst ending your safari at a beautiful beach lodge.

Here is our pick of the best of the rest!


Sauti za Busara Music Festival – Zanzibar, Tanzania – February

The Sauti za Busara Music Festival will be in its 7th year in 2010. Zanzibar comes alive in February each year with this international festival celebrating East African music. 400 established and upcoming artists perform acoustic and electric, modern and classic “from city and shamba”. The festival kicks off with a street parade, followed by four days of live music at the historic Old Fort in Stone Town, Zanzibar.


Cape Town International Jazz Festival – Cape Town, South Africa – April

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival has blossomed into a top international jazz event voted by Melodytrip as the 4th best in the world. This comes as no surprise considering the wealth of jazz musicians who hail from South Africa and Cape Town in particular. 40 local and international greats perform on four stages over a weekend, so the hardest part is trying to decide which stage to visit at any one time!


Malaral Camel Derby – Maralal, Northern Kenya – August

The Malaral Camel Derby is an annual event held in the Northern Region of Kenya. Both amateurs and professionals put the camels through their paces on a route through this semi-desert region. Camels (with or without handlers) are available to hire for those wishing to compete. This event is aimed to bring attention to the encroachment of the desert in Northern Kenya. Other activities include cycle races, dance displays and donkey rides for children.


Ethiopia – Festival of the Timkat – January or Meskel – September

Religion forms such a fundamental part of Ethiopian culture. There are several religious festivals celebrated throughout the year, but in particular, two are worth seeing.

The first is Meskel – Meskel is celebrated in Ethiopia by dancing, feasting, and lighting a massive bonfire known in Ethiopian tradition as “Damera”. Meskel commemorates the finding of the True Cross in the fourth century when Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. The feast is celebrated in Ethiopia on September 17 Ethiopian calendar (September 27 Gregorian calendar), 6 months after the discovery of the True Cross. The celebration of Meskel signifies the presence of the True Cross at mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery and also symbolizes the events carried out by Empress Helena.

According to tradition, Empress Helena lit incense and prayed for assistance to guide her. The smoke drifted towards the direction of the buried cross. She dug and found three crosses; one of them was the True Cross used to crucify Jesus Christ. Empress Helena then gave a piece of the True Cross to all churches, including the Ethiopian Church. This piece was then brought to Ethiopia. According to the Ethiopian legend, when people get close to the piece of the True Cross it made them naked by its powerful light. Because of this, a decision was made to bury it at the mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery in Wollo region. The monastery of Gishen Mariam holds a volume of a book which records the story of the True Cross of Christ and how it was acquired.

The second is Timkat, which is the greatest colourful festival of Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia and takes place in Lalibela and in Gondor. It celebrates the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. Timkat is a three-day affair and all the ceremonies are conducted with great pomp and ceremony. The eve of Timkat is called Ketera. This is when the Tabots of each church are carried out in procession to a river or pool of water where the next day’s celebration will take place.

Talking about African festivals without including Ethiopia will be nonsense!


Oktoberfest – Namibia, Various locations – Late October

The German descendants in Namibia have maintained their language and culture despite being cut off from Germany since 1915. This is why you will find a Munich-style Oktoberfest energetically celebrated in most major centres. If you are in Namibia in late October be sure to seek out the foaming pitchers of beer, sizzling sausages and thigh slapping merriment of the oompah bands.


Kwanga Festival – Samfya, Zambia – October

The Kwanga Festival is celebrated annually by the Njumba tribe of the Bangweulu wetlands of Northern Zambia. This three day festival sees much singing, dancing and feasting to mark a rite of passage in anticipation of the return of the rainfall in November. This is a coming together of the tribe who don colourful gear and dance to the rhythm of traditional drum and rattle beats. Visitors are welcome to participate in the festivities, so if you are in Zambia at this time of year for your African safari be sure to take advantage of this unique opportunity.


Morocco – Marrakech Biennale – February / March

World class artists from all over the world come together to celebrate creativity in a city that has been the focus of artistic exploration for centuries. There are so many beautiful boutique hotels and riads to stay in, and perhaps take a foray into the Atlas mountains or take an afternoon’s cookery course?


Kenya – Lamu Cultural Festival And Dhow Boat Race – November

Lamu Cultural Festival is a celebration of both the past and the future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the heart and soul of the Lamu community. Most visitors to the island fall in love with this relaxed and peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous.

Each year, Lamu comes to life during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival. Several competitions and races are staged during this week long festival. These events are designed to each encourage local skills or practices that are central to Lamu life. These include traditional Swahili poetry, Henna painting and Bao competition… Bao is probably the oldest known game in human history, with archaeological evidence suggesting that the game has been played throughout Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years.

In order to preserve and encourage the art of dhow sailing, now threatened by increasing availability of engines and prefabricated boats, a dhow race is also held. The town’s finest dhows are selected to compete, and race under sail through a complicated series of buoys, combining speed with elaborate tacking and maneuvering skill.

Other events include swimming, and at times a challenging cross country race along the waterfront, all the way to Shela village and back- all in the physically draining heat of the day. The real highlight of every festival involves the town’s most endearing symbol- the donkey race. Local donkey jockeys literally spend the entire year honing their riding skills for this event, and the winning rider wears his title with great pride.

Being a winning donkey jockey requires a specific set of skills. As with most such races, small physical stature is helpful, but keeping a stubborn donkey moving and on course requires a definite talent.

Lamu Cultural Festival is a celebration of both the past and the future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the heart and soul of this community. Most visitors to the island fall in love with this relaxed and peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous.


Malawi – Festival Of Stars / Lake Of Stars – September

This is now considered one of the best musical festivals in Africa. The festival takes place over three days, set on the palm fringed shores of one of Africa’s largest lakes and featuring artists from Malawi, Africa and the rest of the world. There is also comedy and poetry on other stages. Malawi has come such a long way in terms of its wildlife and there are fabulous wildlife reserves in the south and north of the country and of course, so many very beautiful places to stay at on Lake Malawi herself.



Will Jameson set up the Lake of Stars Project in 2003 to encourage international tourism to Malawi, taking inspiration from events like WOMAD and Glastonbury.  The project uses cultural tourism to generate revenue and exposure for Malawi. The project was born from a desire to raise money for a developing economy, help promote Malawi as a tourist destination and expose Malawian artists to an international audience.

Will Jameson first visited Malawi in 1998 when he worked in Dwangwa as a volunteer with the Wildlife Society for 6 months. During that time he travelled to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. On returning to England Will took with him a souvenir – an empty carton of Chibuku Shake Shake beer. Half way through university at Liverpool John Moores he decided to start a clubnight with friends. They named the night after the Malawian beer and went on to win Best UK Club in the Mixmag Awards in 2004. It was in this same year that Will launched the first Lake of Stars Festival, headlined by Chibuku favourite Andy Cato from Groove Armada. The festival attracted dozens of people from Europe and hundreds attended from all over Malawi and Southern Africa. It won the Malawi Tourism Award in its first year and has grown to become one of the best known African festivals on the global circuit. The festival is set on the shimmering, palm-fringed shores of Lake Malawi. Malawian and international artists gather for a musical, social and cultural exchange in a festival location like no other.

The festival acts as the focal point when travelling around this beautiful country, forming part of an itinerary spanning all that Malawi has to offer. After taking a break from the festival in 2012 to support local initiatives, the project returned last year with City of Stars, our ten year anniversary event that took place in September. A multi-venue arts festival and conference, City of Stars showcased the best in emerging and acclaimed talent from Malawi and beyond, and featured an eclectic programme of live music, film, theatre, exhibitions and speakers. It promoted Malawian culture and creativity as well as attracting international artists and arts practitioners.


Seychelles – Week of Creole – October

The Creole Festival is a week-long, annual event that commemorates the diverse cultural aspects of Creole life, including music, dance, food, art, language, and other traditions.

For two centuries Seychelles has been a melting pot of different races, traditions and religions. Fusing ethnic diversity into a colorful, trilingual creole nation. The predominant Roman Catholic Church exist happily alongside other creeds, reflecting the religious and racial harmony that is the mainstay of this peaceful yet vibrant nation.

The creole festival is, at it’s core, a manifestation of Seychellois and creole identity and a celebration of culture of the island as experienced through music, dance, arts, craft, cuisine, customs and the general way of life.

It offers the visitors a fascinating week full of the colors sound flavours and fragrances of one corner of the creole world that treasures its traditions while embracing the opportunities of the present. Seychelles is a prominent pioneer in the promotion of the Creole language and culture

The festival is an event attracting an increasing international audience coming to appreciate the festival’s highlights that includes Fashion Show, Moman Kreativite, Dimans Kreol Bor Lanmer {Sunday on the beach} music performance….

Celebrated on all the main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue the Kreol Festival is the main cultural event of the year in Seychelles that gives the visitors the opportunity to experience the different aspects of the Creole culture.

There are some beautiful Seychelles lodges, hotels, and villas that you can stay in whilst visiting the festival, or perhaps combine it with a private catamaran sailing around the islands.


Overal, African festivals are an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with the culture and people of Africa. Come enjoy the most amazing African adventures.

Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!