Contrary to popular knowledge, Africa is in fact home to some truly spectacular festivals. After all, with 54 countries, numerous tribes and cultures, the African continent is an embodiment of cultural diversity. It is little wonder that African Festivals are a real celebration and showcase the continent’s unimaginably creative talent through music, dance, art and religious practices, fueled by the influence of traditional, age-old beliefs. The Festivals are often an opportunity for visitors to gain insight into a country’s traditions and beliefs, witness moments of intense spirituality and spiritually and access the rich history upon which the country is built on. Here are a few out of the many wonderful and interesting festivals that take place on the African continent:
1. The Gerewol Festival, Chad
This has to be one of the most fascinating cultural experiences a traveler could experience. Each year, the nomadic Wodaabe tribes gather at the end of the rainy season, usually during the last week of September, for what has been described as the world’s most competitive male beauty pageant. During this one-week festival, tribes gather via camel or donkey and even on foot to come together to dance, feast, and most importantly – attract a mate. The men carry a small pocket mirror with them at all times and spend hours preparing their clothing and makeup for the Yakke dancing – in which three female judges each pick a winner who will be famous for years to come. The Wodaabe are polygamous, and it is the women who take the lead in partnerships. During the dance, a woman who wishes to be ‘stolen’ from her current husband by a more attractive mate taps him on the shoulder to indicate her choice. Witnessing the Gerewol festival is a rare opportunity for travelers to explore cultural horizons.
Photo Credit: Kumakonda.com
2. Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco
This spiritual festival has been held annually for more than 25 years in Fez, Morocco, and hosts dancers and musicians from all over the world. Over the course of the nine-day event, you might see Iranian whirling dervishes or Sufi chanters, dancers from America or groups singing sacred Gaelic hymns. Performances take place outside, in the city's Jnan Sbil Gardens or in the historic plaza in front of the Royal Palace. Also, expect an abundance of delicious Moroccan street food in addition to the scheduled performances.
Photo Credit: fezfestival.com
2. Meskel Festival, Ethiopia
Meskel is a Christian festival that has been observed in Ethiopia for over 1,600 years. It commemorates the discovery of the true cross upon which Jesus was crucified. In Addis Ababa's Meskel Square, the celebration is marked with a colourful procession of priests, deacons, and choir singers who walk around a huge pyre, bearing ceremonial crosses and wooden torches decorated with olive leaves. The torchbearers set fire to the pyramid-shaped structure, then the faithful use the ash to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
Photo Credit: thisisafrica.me
4. Gnaoua World Music Festival, Morocco
This festival is held every year in the coastal town of Essaouira and was founded more than 20 years ago to celebrate traditional Gnaoua music, which draws inspiration from the religious songs and acrobatic dance rhythms of Berber, African, and Arabic culture. Since then, it has grown to include musicians from all over the world. The festival lasts for four days, with performances taking place at venues all over the town. Essaouira is also known for beautiful beaches and renowned seafood restaurants that tourists can take out time to visit.
Photo Credit: Friendly Morocco
So much to see and so much to experience when you visit the wonderful continent of Africa. “The only man I envy is the one who has not yet been to Africa… For he has so much to look forward.” African Proverb.