Festivals, celebrations and events @ Zanzibar
When visiting a special destination during your trip or holiday, it is always nice when you can catch a (local) festival or event. It is a good way to get to know a local culture when attending a special festival. Events are ideal opportunities to get in touch with locals, other visitors or just enjoy or celebrate with your own company.
Zanzibar’s calendar contains many traditional festivals that have been taking place for hundreds of years, usually in a setting with lots of music. Including many Islamic festivals.
Nowadays, the islands of Unguja and Pemba also host various sports and music events that are relatively new in this area. Visitors to Zanzibar will find plenty of things to do or attend in most months. Perhaps the most popular event in Zanzibar is the “Sauti za Basara,” held every February.
Full Moon Party Zanzibar
Every month at the Kendwa Rocks Hotel a full moon party takes place. This party started in 1996 in humble fashion and has grown over the years into a true tradition where people come from all over Africa and the world to party in the moonlight. Check out the extact dates each month that the this epic party takes place here.
Zanzibar Revolution Day takes place annually on 12 January. This day commemorates the end of 200 years of Arab rule. At midnight, gun salutes can be heard and horns can be heard coming from boats moored at the waterfront.
- Sauti za Busara (Sound of wisdom) – This festival takes place in mid-February and is considered one of the best music festivals in East Africa. Sauti za Busara attracts about 400 musicians from Tanzania and other African countries. It also features a carnival-style street parade, music films and documentaries, workshops as well as concerts and screenings.
- Zanzibar Cultural Festival – This vibrant event is a great way to learn about local culture, music and dance traditions. It takes place at various locations and there are many different activities, such as canoe races and carnivals.
Easter – Although Easter is by no means celebrated by everyone in Zanzibar, as a large proportion of the island’s residents are Muslim, Good Friday and Easter Monday are days off.
Labour Day – A national day off in Zanzibar celebrated on 1 May every year.
Zanzibar International Film Festival – Generally held in June or July. This is the biggest film event in East Africa. It showcases a lot of musical creativity both from Africa and beyond. A host of screenings, workshops, events and performances for children are part of the activities.
Mwaka Kogwa – This festival, held in 7 villages of Zanzibar to celebrate the start of the new Shirazi year, takes place in mid-July. The best place to watch the spectacle is on the south-east coast of the main island of Unguja. The event originated in Persia (Iran) and marks the beginning of a new year according to the Shirazi calendar. The festival includes ancient rituals including symbolic fires and “mock” fights that are believed to help with peace for in new year. The men in the fights defend themselves with banana tree branches, while the women dress up and sing.
Eid – al – Fitr – On 19 August. This 4-day festival at the end of the holy month takes place to celebrate the end of the fast. This festival is the biggest event of the year and is a time of gift-giving. Because the Islamic calendar is different from that in Europe, the date of this fasting month and festival changes by about 11 days every year. Many restaurants close during these 4 days.
Jahazi Literature and Jazz Festival – From late August to early September, a weekend of al fresco concerts, poetry readings and debates at various venues in Stone Town.
Tanzacat Open – late September to early October, a sailing competition organised by the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club. It includes “Round the Marks Bay Racing” and the “Zanzibar Raid”.
Visa 2 Dance Festival – begins early October in Dar es Salaam, with an additional event in mid-October on Zanzibar.
Eid-al-Hajj (Festival of Sacrifice) – Annual Islamic festival concluding the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Zanzibar Island Run – This fairly newly established running event will be held in Stone town in early December. The programme includes a half-marathon race and a shorter distance for recreational runners.
Christmas – The festive season is celebrated in Tanzania, with many hotels offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Christmas celebration.