Festivals and Holidays


Here are the most attended and enjoyable festivals in East African countries:

Zanzibar Music Festival

Zanzibar Music Festival is best known as Sauti za Busara music festival, it is centred in Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town, featuring a dynamic variety of African music with more than four hundred musicians participating over five days. Every year during February the ancient walls of the Old Fort resonate as people come together in celebration. The festival is supplemented with fringe events in town and across the island including a carnival street parade. All music on the main stage is performed live. Shows start at 5pm, continuing virtually non-stop, with the final band taking to the stage around midnight. For local people, admission is free until 6:00pm, then around €1 (one euro).

5,000 people attend each day, roughly being 80% people from the region and others from all over Africa, Asia, Europe and beyond.

Sauti za Busara is the annual music event in East Africa and widely known as ‘the friendliest festival on the planet’.

Location: Zanzibar

Fespad Festival

Pan African Dance Festival (FESPAD) which brings together participants from various countries across the globe aims at showcasing the culture of these countries through music and dance.

Held every 2 years since it’s inauguration in 2005, FESPAD has proven to be Africa’s biggest cultural event bringing a big number of widely known artists including musicians, dancers, poets and painters from different parts of Africa and the world across.

More than 30 countries participated in last year’s FESPAD whereas for the first time the event also featured a beauty pageant dubbed Miss FESPAD 2010. Several international artists such as Koffi Olomide, Caribbean zouk group Kassav as well as Kyman Marley (son of Bob) performed. Many participants were disappointed however when it was announced that American hip-hop star Chris Brown, who was supposed to be top-of-the-bill, had cancelled his participation.

Organisers have vowed to make Fespad 2012 more spectacular. It is important to mention here that Rwanda is very famous for gorilla tours safaris and chimpanzee trekking therefore taking part in Fespad events and wildlife safaris would mean a lifetime experience.

Location: Rwanda

Timkat/Epiphany – January

Timket, or the Feast of the Epiphany, is celebrated in the January of each year. The 3-day event commemorates the baptism of Christ and is one of the most colourful Ethiopian festivals. The night before the Timket, priests take the Tabot (which symbolises the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments) from each church to a tent at a consecrated pool or stream. There is frenetic activity, including the ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense. In Addis Ababa, tents are pitched at Jan Meda, to the northeast of the city centre. At 02h00, mass is celebrated, attended by crowds of people carrying lighted oil lamps. At dawn, the priest uses a ceremonial cross to extinguish a candle burning on a pole in a nearby river. Inevitably, some of the congregation leap into the river. The Tabots are then taken back to the churches in procession, accompanied by horsemen, while the festivities continue.

The festival lasts three days. It begins two weeks after the Ethiopian Christmas. The festival lasts all weekend and culminates on the following Monday, when John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus is re-enacted en masse and many Ethiopians are baptised. The priests bless the water where the baptisms will take place.

Location: Ethiopia

Mombasa Carnival

Add some spice to your beach vacation on the Indian Ocean and enjoy this wonderful cultural carnival. Musicians and artists from all over Kenya participate as well as representatives of the many different tribes showing off their cultural finery in a parade that snakes down the city’s main avenue.

The Mombasa carnival features parades and floats from every conceivable cultural, national and religious group in Kenya. There are two main parades which converge onto Moi Avenue which feature incredible floats, spectacular costumes and fantastic music.

Location: Mombasa, Kenya

The Wildebeest Migration

The Wildebeest Migration in East Africa, also known as “The Great Migration” takes place between Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara and is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet.

Thousands of wildebeest and zebra’s migrate between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, constantly driven by their search for fresh grazing. The massive herds are closely followed by predators (lion, hyena and cheetah), making the most of every opportunity to catch their next meal.

The precise timing of the annual wildebeest migration depends on the rains. It is a very unpredictable and spontaneous natural event, with calving season taking place in the Serengeti between January and mid-March. The wildebeest migration starts to head towards the Western Serengeti in May or June. The best time to see the migration is generally between June and August when the wildebeest congregate and prepare to cross the famous Grumeti River.

If you are in the Masai Mara you can expect the wildebeest to make their arrival as early as July, but they generally arrive between August & September and remain in the Masai Mara between October & November. Between the end of November and January the wildebeest gradually begin their migration from the Masai Mara back towards the Serengeti.

Location: Tanzania & Kenya

Bayimba International Festival of Music and Arts

The Annual Bayimba International Festival of Music and Arts is a vibrant platform to celebrate the power of Music and Arts in Uganda.

It takes place annually and invites international musicians and artists to participate in the events of the festival, which began in 2008 at the behest of the Bayimba Cultural Foundation. The Foundation intends to create and promote an indigenous art and music industry in Uganda. The festival helps cultivate this effort. The festival lasts three days in September and features live performances, workshops, gallery and fashion shows.

Location: Uganda