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24 Fabulous Festivals In Africa You’ll Want To Attend

In the vibrant world of global celebrations, the festivals in Africa always have a unique charm and always stand out as a fabulous kaleidoscope of cultural exuberance. In this article, we’ll focus on some of the most fabulous vibrant African festivals you’ll want to attend and keep in mind; most of these are not just mere dates on the calendar but beacons that illuminate the often forgotten but nevertheless rich tableau of African heritage.

Abu Simbel Festival, Egypt

Abu Simbel Festivals in africa

We start this list of the best festivals in Africa with The Abu Simbel Festival in Egypt, a dazzling display of ancient architectural prowess, unfurls its magic twice a year, in February and October. This festival celebrates a marvel of ancient engineering: the Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, precisely aligned so that on these two days, sunlight illuminates the inner sanctum—a feat that leaves modern architects in awe. Born from the pharaoh’s desire to immortalize his reign, this event has danced through millennia, encapsulating Egypt’s rich history and Ramses II’s ambition.

As dawn breaks and the first rays of light snake their way into the temple, striking the statues of Ramses, Ra, and Amun, it’s a spectacle that defies the ages. But it’s not just about the sun’s acrobatics; the festival is a cultural confluence, brimming with vibrant music, traditional dances, and a chance to mingle with both locals and fellow travelers, all unified by the awe of this ancient marvel.

Other things to see in Abu Simbel:

Nefertari’s Temple of Hathor

The Aswan Dam

Lake Nasser

Sound and Light Show at Abu Simbel

The Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan

Philae Temple in Aswan

Where to stay in Abu Simbel:

Seti Abu Simbel Lake Resort

Tuya Hotel

Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge

The Sphinx Festival, Egypt

Sphinx Festival, Egypt

Some might dispute including this festival in this list of the best cultural festivals in Africa due to the fact that it doesn’t have a long history but if you ask me anything that involves the sphinx and a vibrant cultural setting should get at least an honorable mention. At this festival, you can expect to see contemporary art and innovative performances but also experience a little bit of Egypt’s somewhat forgotten ancient flavors.

Other Things to See in El Gouna:

  1. Abu Tig Marina
  2. El Gouna Beach
  3. El Gouna Cable Park – Sliders
  4. Zeytuna Beach
  5. Desert Breath Art Installation
  6. Hurghada Grand Aquarium

Where to stay in El Gouna:

  1. Sheraton Miramar Resort El Gouna
  2. Steigenberger Golf Resort El Gouna
  3. Mövenpick Resort & Spa El Gouna

Tunisia’s International Festival of the Sahara, Tunisia

International Festival of the Sahara, Tunisia

Originating over half a century ago in the 1910s, it began as a local Bedouin marriage festival in the oasis town of Douz. Today, it has transformed into a vibrant showcase of Tunisian and broader Saharan culture, attracting visitors from around the globe. Each year, for four days, the quiet town of Douz bursts into life, echoing with the sounds of traditional music and an authentic slice of Saharan life.

Other things to see in Douz:

  1. Sahara Museum
  2. Douz Market
  3. Great Eastern Erg Desert
  4. Public Palm Gardens of Douz
  5. Festival of the Sahara venue

Where to stay in Douz:

  1. Hotel Sahara Douz
  2. Sun Palm Douz
  3. Hotel 4 Saisons

Morocco’s Fez Festival, Morocco

Morocco’s Fez Festival

Morocco’s Fez Festival, officially known as the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, is a symphony of cultural dialogue and musical discovery that began in 1994. It sprang from the historic Moroccan city of Fez, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with the noble aim to harness the arts and spirituality in the service of human and social development, and the promotion of peace. The festival bridges the divides of race, religion, and language, resonating off walls that have stood for centuries.

Other things to see in Fez:

  1. Al Quaraouiyine University and Mosque
  2. Chouara Tannery
  3. The Royal Palace of Fez
  4. Bab Boujloud (The Blue Gate)
  5. Dar Batha Museum
  6. Medersa Bou Inania
  7. Fez Mellah (Jewish Quarter)

Where to stay in Fez:

  1. Riad Fes
  2. Palais Faraj Suites & Spa
  3. Hotel Sahrai
  4. Riad Laaroussa Hotel and Spa

The Gerewol Festival, Chad

Gerewol Festival chad

This list of the best festivals in Africa can’t be complete without The Gerewol Festival. This is Chad’s vibrant courtship ritual, etched into the annual cycle of the Wodaabe people (a nomadic subgroup of the Fulani ethnic group). The festival takes place during the rainy season and some of its main activities include a beauty pageant and a dance marathon, where the men, adorned with elaborate makeup and dress, compete for the attention of the women, flipping the conventional script of the dating game.

Other things to see in N’Djamena:

  1. Avenue Charles de Gaulle
  2. N’Djamena Cathedral
  3. Grand Marché (Central Market)
  4. National Museum of Chad (Musée National N’Djamena)
  5. Place de la Nation

Where to stay in N’Djamena:

  1. Hilton N’Djamena
  2. Ledger Plaza N’Djamena Hotel
  3. Hotel Novotel N’Djamena La Tchadienne

Curee Salee and Wodaabe Gerewol, Niger

Curee Salee and Wodaabe Gerewol

Curee Salee, which translates to ‘Festival of the Nomads’, is an annual gathering in the town of Ingall in Niger that takes place after the rainy season. This centuries-old tradition symbolizes a celebration of the end of a fertile season but also a great time for trading, dancing, and a little bit of matchmaking. Women participate in the Wodabe Gerewol, a beauty pageant where they wear their traditional attires while tribal men do their best to showcase their charm and woo potential mates participating at the pageant. 

Other things to see in Ingall:

  1. The Saharan landscape of Ingall
  2. Ingall’s seasonal river and greenery post-rainy season
  3. Traditional nomadic encampments around Ingall

Where to stay in Ingall:

  1. Nomad Tented Camps (seasonal)
  2. Ingall Guest House

Festival On The Niger, Mali

Festival On The Niger

The Festival on the Niger, Mali, is an annual extravaganza that unfolds on the banks of the river from which it takes its name. This festival is one of the more recent additions to the list of festivals in Africa- it began in 2005, promoted by the local government to showcase local culture, Malian traditions, and arts.  The festival has grown in every year of its existence and today attracts more artists from different countries and regions and is quickly becoming an important symbol of local culture.

Other things to see in Segou:

  1. Ségou Grand Mosque
  2. Ségou Artisan Village
  3. Tomb of Biton Mamary Coulibaly
  4. Pottery Market of Kalabougou
  5. The Niger River Banks
  6. Colonial Buildings in the Old Quarter

Where to stay in Segou:

  1. Hotel Independence
  2. Auberge du Tounka
  3. Hotel L’Auberge

Ouidah Voodoo Festival, Benin

Ouidah Voodoo Festival

The Ouidah Voodoo Festival, held every January 10th, is not just a local festivity but a global draw, celebrating a religion that has flowed through the veins of Benin for centuries. Voodoo, or Vodun as it’s locally known, is deeply woven into the fabric of Beninese culture and history, with its origins tracing back to the ancient Dahomey Kingdom. This festival is marked by the sacrifice of goats and chickens (which I personally condemn, I have to mention) to honor the deities, soul-stirring dances by the adepts, and the unfurling of richly colored ceremonial cloths.

Other things to see in Ouidah:

  1. The Ouidah Museum of History (Musée d’Histoire de Ouidah)
  2. The Temple of Pythons
  3. The Sacred Forest of Kpassè (Forêt Sacrée de Kpassè)
  4. The Door of No Return (Porte du Non Retour)
  5. Ouidah Cathedral

Where to stay in Ouidah:

  1. Casa Del Papa
  2. Hotel de la Diaspora
  3. Hotel Djegba

Durbar Festival, Nigeria

Durbar Festivals in africa

Next on our list of the best festivals in Africa is The Durbar Festival in Nigeria; a spectacle of horsemanship, a flamboyant display of culture, and a parade that has thundered through the sands of time. Its roots delve deep into the 14th century when the cavalry used to showcase their readiness for battle to the Emir. Now, it serves as a ceremonial climax to the Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha in cities across Northern Nigeria.

What was once a show of military prowess has transformed into a cultural cavalcade, where each beat of the drum and each hoofbeat is a staccato note in the symphony of tradition.

Other things to see in Kano:

  1. Gidan Makama Museum Kano
  2. Kano Central Mosque
  3. Kano City Wall
  4. Kurmi Market
  5. Emir’s Palace

Where to stay in Kano:

  1. Prince Hotel
  2. Tahir Guest Palace
  3. Green Palace Hotel

Festival of the Dancing Masks, Burkina Faso

Festival of the Dancing Masks

Known locally as Festima, this festival dedicated to mask culture reverberates through the streets every two years. Its inception, rooted in the ancient animist beliefs of the region, was to honor the spirits that guide and protect their communities. In addition to being the nation’s most popular festival, today Festima is getting international recognition and even some foreign visitors.

The masks worn by participants are carved from wood and painted with earthy pigments, representing animals, ancestors, and mythological beings, creating a vibrant display of Burkina Faso’s spiritual landscape.

Other things to see in Dédougou:

  1. Provincial Museum of Bam
  2. Dédougou Cathedral
  3. Dédougou Central Market
  4. Mouhoun Cultural Centre
  5. The Nouna-Dédougou Falls

Where to stay in Dédougou:

  1. Hôtel Laafi
  2. Hôtel Sissiman
  3. Complexe Hôtelier Dafra

The Zaouli Mask Dance, Ivory Coast

Zaouli Masked Dances ivory coast

Tracing its origins to the Guro tribe in the central region of the Ivory Coast, Zaouli is both a mask and a dance, named after a daughter of a deity, designed to bring beauty and peace to the villages. This celebratory dance is performed at various events, including funerals and weekly village festivities (so it’s more related to major events and not tied to a specific annual festival unlike most other festivals in Africa). The festival takes place primarily in the central region, where the Guro people are a majority, though it can be found across the Ivory Coast. 

Ashanti Funeral, Ghana

Ashanti Funeral

The Ashanti Funeral is steeped in history, a vibrant tapestry woven from the rich cultural threads of the Ashanti people, hailing from the Ashanti Region in Ghana. This tradition dates back centuries, rooted in the profound reverence of the Ashanti culture for ancestry and the afterlife.

The city of Kumasi, the heart of the Ashanti Region, often serves as the stage for these elaborate funerals. This isn’t just a random choice; Kumasi’s historical significance as the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom lends a deeper resonance to the ceremonies held there.

Other things to see in Kumasi:

Kejetia Market

Manhyia Palace Museum

Prempeh II Museum

Kumasi Fort  

Rattray Park

Where to stay in Kumasi:

  1. Fredrick’s Lodge​​
  2. Oak Plaza Suites​​
  3. Golden Tulip Kumasi City​​

Afrochella, Ghana


This list of our favorite festivals in Africa couldn’t be complete without Ghana’s Afrochella. Afrochella serves as a platform for African artists, chefs, designers, and entrepreneurs to showcase their talent to a global audience. It’s a jubilant declaration of African pride, a beacon attracting the world’s gaze to the richness of African culture. The heart of this cultural extravaganza beats in Accra, Ghana’s bustling capital and it typically lights up the city in late December, harmoniously tying in with the festive season.

Other things to see in Accra:

  1. Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park​​
  2. W.E.B. DuBois Center​​
  3. Makola Market​​
  4. Artists Alliance Gallery​​
  5. Bojo Beach​​
  6. Black Star Gate​​

Where to stay in Accra:

  1. Maple Leaf Korean Hotel
  2. Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra
  3. African Regent Hotel

Bwiti Ceremony, Cameroon

Bwiti Ceremony

The Bwiti Ceremony is one of the most authentic festivals in Africa and I say this because (without exaggeration) being fortunate enough to experience it, I can describe it serves as a bridge that links the physical and spiritual worlds and a journey of self-discovery, healing, and communion with ancestors. The ceremony consists of vibrant displays of traditional songs, dances, and consumption of the sacred iboga root which is a symbol of the rainforests of Cameroon. The Bwiti Ceremony primarily unfolds in the depths of Cameroon’s tropical rainforests, away from the prying eyes of the modern world. It’s not confined to a single city but rather takes place in various Fang communities, each adding their unique flavor to the ceremony.

Timkat Festival, Ethiopia


Timkat (or Epiphany in English) is an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian festival whose origins trace back over two thousand years, making this festival a living relic of history. The main purpose of Timkat is the celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan and it’s one filled with vibrant customs and acts. 

The festival takes place on January 19th and is celebrated across the country with the most renowned celebrations taking place in Addis Ababa, Gondar, and Lalibela. As someone coming from an Orthodox Christian country myself this was my first time seeing such a vivid similarity between European and African cultures which is why Timkat will always have a special place in my heart.

Are you fond of African culture and visiting destinations that most don’t seem “attractive”? Then you should definitely check out our list of the least visited countries in the world.

Meskel Festival, Ethiopia

meskel festival

Meskel is another Orthodox Christian Ethiopian festival with ancient roots. Legend has it that in the 4th century, Queen Eleni of Ethiopia had a revelation in a dream, instructing her to light a bonfire to find the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. The smoke from the fire supposedly guided her to its location and the Meskel festival is a celebration of this beautiful folklore legend. 

This luminous festival lights up Ethiopia annually, with particularly grand celebrations in the capital, Addis Ababa, especially at Meskel Square, named in honor of the event.

Other things to see in Addis Ababa:

  1. National Museum of Ethiopia
  2. Holy Trinity Cathedral
  3. Ethnological Museum
  4. Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum
  5. Entoto Hill
  6. Addis Mercato (City Market)

Where to stay in Addis Ababa:

  1. Sheraton Addis
  2. Radisson Blu Hotel, Addis Ababa
  3. Hilton Addis Ababa
  4. Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa

Mombasa Carnival, Kenya

Mombasa Carnival

Even though its roots are recent the Mombasa Carnival is on my list of favorite festivals in Africa because it’s the ultimate celebration of Kenya’s cultural wealth. Some of the festival’s highlights feature the Maasai warriors’ rhythmic dances, Swahili poetry reading, colorful ethnic clothes, tribal dances, traditional music, and last but not least, all the finest Kenyan food you can eat. Mombasa, Kenya’s coastal gem, plays host to this colorful extravaganza and the carnival typically lights up the city’s streets in November.

Other things to see in Mombasa:

  1. Fort Jesus
  2. Haller Park
  3. Old Town
  4. Mombasa Marine National Park
  5. The Mombasa Tusks

Where to stay in Mombasa:

  1. Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa
  2. Voyager Beach Resort
  3. Serena Beach Resort & Spa

The Kuomboka Festival, Zambia

Kuomboka Festival

Kuomboka, a word that in the Lozi language means ‘to get out of water’, is an ancient ceremony that has been celebrated for over 300 years. Rooted in the practical need to move to higher ground during the flood season, this festival has sailed through time to become a cultural cornerstone. Kuomboka is a symbolic exodus, representing the collective spirit of the Lozi people and their journey through history. 

The festival’s heart beats in the floodplains of the Zambezi River, predominantly in the town of Lealui. The precise timing of Kuomboka is dictated not by the calendar, but by nature itself – specifically, the rising waters of the Zambezi.

Other things to see in Lealui:

  1. Barotse Royal Establishment (the traditional monarchy)
  2. Sioma Ngwezi National Park
  3. Liuwa Plain National Park
  4. Zambezi River activities (various locations)
  5. Ngonye Falls (near Sioma)

Where to stay near Lealui:

  1. Royal Barotse Safari Lodge
  2. Maramba River Lodge (in nearby Livingstone)
  3. Zambezi Sun Hotel (in Livingstone)

Do you like attending vibrant festivals in lesser-known parts of the world? Then you ought to check out our list of Northeast Indian festivals and quirky religious Indian festivals.

Lake Of Stars, Malawi

Lake Of Stars, Malawi

The festival’s inception twinkled into existence in 2003, the brainchild of British tourist Will Jameson. Inspired by the vivacious atmosphere of a local Malawian music event, Jameson envisioned a festival that would not only spotlight international and Malawian artists but also boost tourism and the local economy.  Fast forward to today and this festival amplifies Malawi’s voice on the global stage. Here, you can expect to see a lot of local talented artists and musicians and learn a lot about local culture. 

Nestled on the palm-fringed shores of Lake Malawi, the festival has been hosted in various locations, including the serene beaches of Chintheche and the historic Livingstonia Beach in Salima. The timing of the festival, typically held at the end of September or the beginning of October, coincides with the cusp of the dry season, offering clear skies and a sublime setting.

Festival of the Dhow Countries, Tanzania

ziff festival

Launched in the mid-90s, ZIFF is a relatively young festival with a timeless spirit. It sprang from the desire to showcase the cultural mosaic of the Dhow countries—nations linked by the Indian Ocean, where the traditional sailing vessels known as Dhows have ferried culture, commodities, and ideas for centuries. 

The festival transcends the conventional role of a film festival. It is a vibrant platform for storytelling and cultural exchange that promotes dialogue, unity, and understanding through the language of film and the arts. ZIFF takes place in Stone Town, the historical heart of Zanzibar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, every year in July.

Other things to see in Lealui:

  1. Stone Town (Historical city center)
  2. The Rock Restaurant (Iconic restaurant on a rock in the ocean)
  3. Prison Island (Home to giant tortoises and historical sites)
  4. Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park (Famous for the Red Colobus Monkeys)
  5. Nungwi Beach (Beautiful beach and traditional dhow building)

Where to stay in Zanzibar:

  1. Park Hyatt Zanzibar
  2. Zanzibar Serena Hotel
  3. The Residence Zanzibar
  4. Essque Zalu Zanzibar

Maitisong Festival, Botswana

Maitisong Festival

Started in 1987, the Maitisong Festival sprung to life on the grounds of Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone with the purpose of entertaining guests (hence, the name maitisong= “place of entertainment”). More than a simple art festival, Maitisong is the heartbeat of Botswana’s cultural life, a stage where you can find music, theater plays, traditional dance, and poetry that showcase Botswana’s unique culture and traditions. The festival unfolds within the bustling capital city of Gaborone every year, in March or April.

Other things to see in Gaborone:

  1. Gaborone Game Reserve
  2. National Museum and Art Gallery
  3. Kgale Hill
  4. Three Dikgosi Monument
  5. Mokolodi Nature Reserve

Where to stay in Gaborone:

  1. Avani Gaborone Resort & Casino
  2. Masa Square Hotel
  3. Peermont Mondior Gaborone

Umhlanga Reed Dance, Swaziland

Umhlanga Reed Dance

The Reed Dance, or Umhlanga, is an annual Swazi and Zulu event that started several centuries ago with the intent of paying tribute to the Queen Mother and has evolved into a significant ceremony for the kingdom. During this event, tens of thousands of unmarried and childless Swazi women gather to perform for the Queen Mother symbolizing the nation’s chastity, unity, and cultural endurance. The grand spectacle unfolds in the Ludzidzini Royal Village, near the capital city of Lobamba, occurring in late August or early September.

Other things to see in Lobamba:

  1. The Royal Palace
  2. The Parliament Building
  3. Somhlolo National Stadium
  4. Mantenga Cultural Village
  5. National Museum of Eswatini
  6. Mantenga Nature Reserve and Waterfall

Where to stay in Lobamba:

  1. Royal Villas Swaziland
  2. Lugogo Sun
  3. The Happy Valley Hotel

National Arts Festival, South Africa

National Arts Festival south africa

The festival first raised its curtains in 1974 in Grahamstown (now Makhanda), sparked by the 1820 Settlers Foundation, initially as a commemorative gesture but swiftly transformed into a cultural vanguard of South Africa and today, it stands as one of the leading art festivals in Africa, a beacon of diversity and a melting pot of genres. Set in the university town of Makhanda, the festival usually takes place over 11 days between June and July.

Other things to see in Makhanda:

  1. The Cathedral of St Michael and St George
  2. The Albany History Museum Complex
  3. The Observatory Museum
  4. The National English Literary Museum
  5. Rhodes University Art Galleries
  6. The Botanical Gardens

Where to stay in Makhanda:

  1. Graham Hotel
  2. 8A Grahamstown
  3. A Stone’s Throw Accommodation

If you’re planning a trip to South Africa, also make sure to check out my guide to unique things to do in Cape Town and this list of the best South African street food.

AfrikaBurn, South Africa

AfrikaBurn festival

Last but not least, we decided to conclude this list of the best African festivals with perhaps the most famous alternative festival on the Black Continent– Afrika Burn. Conceived in 2007 as a regional event inspired by the famed Burning Man festival in the United States, AfrikaBurn began as a small gathering of like-minded souls seeking a space for artistic expression and in a few years grew into Africa’s largest alternative festival attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. 

Today,  AfrikaBurn is a seismic event in the cultural landscape of South Africa. Every year, participants contribute art installations, theme camps, costumes, music, and performances, creating a city that is as fleeting as it is intense. The festival ignites in the Tankwa Karoo, an area known for its stark beauty and unforgiving climate, near the small town of Tankwa in South Africa.

Tips For Visiting Popular Festivals In Africa

  1. Dress appropriately and respectfully, aligning with local customs and weather conditions.
  2. Engage with local guides or festival-goers to enrich your understanding of the event’s traditions.
  3. Plan your visit well in advance, as accommodations can fill up quickly around the dates of African festivals.
  4. Stay hydrated and protected from the sun, especially during outdoor events.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the festival schedules to ensure you catch key performances and ceremonies.
  6. Respect the environment by following a leave-no-trace principle, keeping the festival grounds clean.
  7. Be open-minded and ready to participate; festivals are interactive experiences.

How did you like this list of the best festivals in Africa? Did you ever attend any of them? Did any catch your attention in particular? Do you know of any other African festivals that you think deserve a mention? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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