Five Unforgettable African Festivals
October 6, 2013

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No matter what time of year you plan to visit or volunteer in Africa, you’re bound to have the option of experiencing a vibrant local festival. Whether celebrating culture, music, or religion, these festivals can provide a unique insight into local customs and provide a memorable experience. The following are five of the most enticing festivals in Africa.

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1. Panafest

Held during July and August in Ghana, the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival takes place once every two years. The festival begins with a pilgrimage along a historic slave route, fostering remembrance of the continent’s history. Along the way participants can take in performances from dancers, musicians, and artists from Ghana and beyond. The festival is also marked by talks on issues related to the Pan-African movement, making it a unique learning experience for locals and international visitors alike. Check out the classifieds in Ghana and you will see lots of adverts and info about the festival.

2. Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival

If you love world music, you won’t want to miss this annual festival in the postcard-perfect Moroccan town of Essaouira. The central theme is Gnawa music, which combines Arabic, Berber, and African influences along with religious rites and acrobatic forms of dancing. Musicians from around the world flock here each year to take part in this celebration of music and culture.

3. Hermanus Whale Festival

The village of Hermanus, on South Africa’s Western Cape, is known as the best whale watching destination in the world based on land. It welcomes tens of thousands of visitors who arrive to catch a glimpse of the southern right whales as they make their journey up the coast. The Hermanus Whale Festival is a celebration not only of the whales, but also of the natural environment, local food, art and music. Although the whales take centre stage, there are plenty of attractions to keep you busy during this four day festival. You may even enjoy the beautiful ocean views enough to stay for a longer time period, requiring friends and family to find ways to make cheap calls to South Africa to stay in touch as you watch the migration of the whales.

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The traditional Christian festival of Meskel has a long history of celebration in Ethiopia, having been recognised for over 1600 years. It helps commemorate the discovery of Jesus’s cross, which was thought to have been brought to Ethiopia centuries ago. During the festival, a procession of singers and priests carries a colourful pyre holding ceremonial crosses, olive leaves, and torches. This is then set alight, with locals using the ash from the bonfire to draw the sign of the cross on their foreheads the next morning.

5. International Festival of the Sahara

Another cultural festival with music at its heart, the International Festival of the Sahara is held in the town of Douz, a Tunisian oasis. Visitors can take part in the feasts, singing, dancing, and mingling with visitors from throughout the region. Camel races are also a part of the celebrations, which originated as a Bedouin marriage festival. Many French tourists visit each year for this lively desert celebration.

It’s easy to stay connected to many countries at a distance, using free international calls and Wi-Fi connections. However getting out into the heart of African traditions and enjoying these memorable festivals in person can make you feel far more connected and help you learn something new at the same time.