Africa boasts some of the most unique festivals on the earth. In Niger nomads journey out into the desert to find partners, in Mali they gather on the dunes for music and in Egypt it’s for an annual event involving architecture and the rising sun.
- Cure Salée festival, Ingal, Niger
If you saw Michael Palin’s Sahara journey you’ll be familiar with this marriage festival among the Tuareg and Wodaabe nomads in September. In this festival young girls choose the man they would like to “try out”, while the men stand in a line dancing and rolling their eyes with lots of makeup. Parades of camel riders, music, races, songs, dances and storytelling take place over the three days but nomadic groups often remain in the area for weeks.
- Abu Simbel festival, Egypt
In an event that inspired a moment in Indiana Jones, the inner sanctum of the famed temple of Abu Simbel lights up twice a year: on the anniversary of Ramses II’s rise to the throne and on his birthday. Crowds pack into the temple before sunrise on February 22 and October 22 to watch the shafts of light slowly creeping through the stone and over the statues. Once it’s over celebrations continue outside, including a fair and a lot of music.
- Imilchil Marriage Festival, Morocco
This annual festival in August was inspired by Morocco’s very own Romeo and Juliet story. Today up to 40 couples tie the knot on one day in Imilchil, in the Middle-High Atlas Mountains. Basically the festival is a good excuse for Berber tribes to congregate, dance, perform musical concerts and enjoy the shopping in the impromptu market that springs up.
- Festival in the desert, Mali
This annual world music and Tuareg culture festival is a one-of-a-kind experience. It is modeled on traditional gatherings and celebrations of the Tuareg people and you get to interact with them and see their traditional singing and dancing. The festival also features musicians from Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Ethiopia and many other countries.
- Lake of Stars Festival, Malawi
This three-day party takes place on the palm fringed shores of Lake Malawi every October and raises money for charity. It also promotes Malawian music. NGO workers, backpackers, locals and adventurous festival-goers converge here for a dizzying range of music. Performances include some of the biggest names in Malawian music and international artists. Music ranges from African jazz to gospel or DJs.
- Cape Town International Jazz Festival, South Africa
For two nights at the end of March, Cape Town hosts 40 of the best local and international jazz acts and welcomes music lovers. There are multi-stage concerts plus a free event in the Greenmarket Square. Music and training workshops are also offered to develop the local music community.
- Saint Louis jazz music, Senegal
This important jazz festival oozes charm in this French colonial city in the north of the country every year in May.
- Alexandria Film Festival, Egypt
This annual celebration is held every September and concentrates on Mediterranean countries productions.
- The Dakar Rally
This incredible sports event featuring motorbikes, cars and trucks racing through the desert; also has some festivities attached. Locals come out in their hundreds at places along the rally and all the bivouac’s become a kind of mini city that you can follow from place to place.
- Film festival, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Africa’s largest film festival is held every other March in the colorful capital of Burkina Faso. The Pan-African Film and Television Festival aims to develop and distribute African film. And it’s become a premier event attracting celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover along with thousands of international film fanatics.