Zanzibar Culture & Festivals

Festivals

Eid-al-Fitr is the festival at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Also known as Eid or Sikukuu (days of celebration, festival or holiday), this festival is a time of gift giving and giving alms. The fasting of Ramadan is meant to remind people what is the meaning of life. Because the Islamic calendar is different from that of Christians, the dates for Ramadan and Eid change every year by about 11 days, so check a local Islamic calendar if you’re looking to visit Zanzibar during Eid.

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Ramadhan is a holy month in which drinking, smoking, and eating in public are prohibited. Dress codes should be strictly adhered to. Some restaurants are closed during this month and outside of town it can be difficult to get any food at all during daytime hours. Eid is a nice time to see all the little girls in their new dresses and the boys in their new sneakers/trainers. The girls put kohl around the eyes regardless of age, and the boys run around firing cap guns. There is a general feeling of celebration as people go from house to house visiting friends and relatives.

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Zanzibar Music Festival

Every July this festival runs for one week and features artists and shows from around the world. Most of the performances are held at the Old Fort but there are other venues in town such as at Bwawani Plaza. Taarab music and Ngoma dances are the big sell-outs during this festival but you can also catch performances from Arabia, Asia, and possibly Europe. Keep in mind that you’ll have to do quite a bit of asking around to find out where the shows are.

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Mwaka Kogwa

A four-day-long celebration, Mwaka Kogwa is best observed in Makunduchi, a village in the south part of Zanzibar. The origins of this holiday are Zoroastrian (a Persian religion older than Islam). It is a celebration of the New Year and some of the events include huge bonfires and mock fights. These fights are between men who defend themselves with banana stems. While the men are fighting, the women stroll through the fields singing songs about life and love. They are dressed in their best clothes and are taunted by the men after the fight is over.

The festivities vary from village to village but Makunduchi is where the biggest events take place. All are welcome for the festival because it is a local belief that anyone without a guest for this holiday is unhappy. The holiday is held every year around the third week of July, but check with a local tour operator to get the official dates. The dates are based on the Shirazi calendar and with the Persian New Year called Nairuz.

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One thought on “Zanzibar Culture & Festivals

  1. Pingback: Zanzibar Stone town – travellifestory

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