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10 Best Cultural Festivals in Africa

Africa is a tapestry woven with vibrant cultures, pulsating rhythms, and ancient traditions. And what better way to experience the soul of this incredible continent than by diving headfirst into its electrifying festivals? From otherworldly desert celebrations to island paradises pulsating with music, we’ve curated a list of the 10 best cultural festivals in Africa guaranteed to leave you breathless.

1. AfrikaBurn, South Africa


Imagine a temporary city built on creativity and self-expression, nestled amidst the stark beauty of the Karoo desert. AfrikaBurn is Africa’s answer to Burning Man, a place where participants become artists, crafting their own performances, art installations, and even the very atmosphere of the festival. Prepare to be amazed by the unexpected and leave utterly transformed.


2. Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco

fez festival morocco

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the spiritual melodies of the Fez Festival. This enchanting event transforms the medieval city into a stage for sacred music from across the globe. Witness whirling dervishes from Turkey, be captivated by Balinese dancers, and feel the soul-stirring chants of Sufi mystics from Iran – all set against the backdrop of stunning palaces and atmospheric courtyards.



3. Zanzibar International Film Festival, Tanzania 

Zanzibar international film festival

Calling all cinephiles! Zanzibar’s International Film Festival is East Africa‘s crown jewel, a vibrant celebration of film, music, and art. Held annually on the idyllic island of Zanzibar, the festival showcases a diverse range of African and international films, fostering cultural exchange through the power of cinema. Don’t miss the electrifying closing night awards and the infectious energy of after-parties that spill onto the beach.


4. Lake of Stars, Malawi

Lake of Stars-2

The Guardian newspaper wasn’t wrong when they called Lake of Stars one of the world’s best festivals. This magical event unfolds on the shores of the awe-inspiring Lake Malawi, blending the soulful sounds of local Malawian musicians with international bands and DJs. The atmosphere is pure joy – expect everything from electro to Afro-pop, with opportunities to swim in the crystal-clear lake, relax on pristine beaches, or even volunteer in local community projects.


5. International Festival of the Sahara, Tunisia

sahara desert

Picture yourself amidst the rolling dunes of the Sahara, surrounded by vibrant celebrations of desert culture. The International Festival of the Sahara transforms the oasis town of Douz into a cultural melting pot. Witness thrilling camel marathons, breathtaking displays of horsemanship, and a traditional Bedouin wedding. Immerse yourself in the lively music, poetry competitions, and bustling marketplace overflowing with local crafts and mouthwatering cuisine.


6. Bushfire Festival, Swaziland

MTN Bushfire Festival 2023

Image credits: https://www.yomzansi.com/2023/05/22/mtn-bushfire-festival-returns-this-weekend/

Each year the tiny country of Swaziland draws 20 000 people for its three-day Bushfire festival – an arts event that encompasses film, theatre, poetry and visual arts performances, as well as music and dance in a beautiful valley. All of the profits from the festival are given to NGOs and charities, so just by attending you contribute to Swaziland’s development.


7. Sauti za Busara Festival, Zanzibar

For 10 years Zanzibar has been host of the “Sounds of Wisdom” festival – a celebration of the best music from across the African continent. Each year there’s a diverse line up of acts, covering genres such as Zimbabwean rap-rock, Senegalese reggae and Rwandan Afro-pop. In addition to music performances, during the festival you can also catch fringe shows of drumming, music documentaries and traditional dancing.


Start or end your Zanzibar Festival Experience with an Overland tour:


8. Gnaoua World Music Festival, Morocco

24th edition of the Gnaoua World Music Festival 2023 in Essaouira - Travel tips | Budget travel, resources, inspiration and more

Image credits – https://www.mortraveling.com/2023/01/Gnaoua-festival-2023.html

The coastal 18th century town of Essaouira rings out with the sound of music at this annual festival which sees traditional Gnaoua musicians (descendants of slaves from sub-Saharan Africa) joined by jazz, pop, blues, reggae, hip hop, Sufi, Latin and rock musicians, attracting around 500 000 people. The performances (many of which are free) take place on the town’s beaches, historic sites, public squares and beaches as Essaouira is transformed into a musical oasis.


9. Zomba 4 Day Festival, Malawi

Zomba City Festival is a celebration of the culture, heritage and natural beauty of the one-time capital of Malawi. Expect 4 days full of activities at the city’s most vibrant locations; there will be something to enjoy for everyone.


10. Cape Town International Jazz Festival, South Africa

Getting a Taste of Cape Town International Jazz Festival | Western Cape Government

Credit: Bruce Sutherland

Hosted in March or April the CTJF is regarded as one of the largest jazz festivals in Africa, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracts music enthusiasts from around the globe. Celebrating the rich heritage of jazz and its fusion with various African genres, the festival features a diverse lineup of local and international artists.


So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, grab your dancing shoes, and embark on an unforgettable African festival adventure!


About Sarah Duff

Documentary filmmaker/ travel writer/ photographer - www.sarahduff.com
Article by: Sarah Duff
on March 25, 2024
Filed under  Africa Blog • Destinations • Only in Africa • What to do 
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