Category: East Africa

Country Highlight: KENYA

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 41 0

Kenya is the 24th largest country in Africa and the only country with a national park located within a capital city. Learn more fun facts about this dynamic country.

Fast Facts:

1. It is located in East Africa and is the 24th largest country on the continent.  

2. Its capital and largest city is Nairobi.

3. The oldest city and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa.

4.  It is named after Mount Kenya, the highest mountain in Kenya and the 2nd highest in Africa.

5. Major languages: English (official), Swahili (official and national), and 68 traditional languages

6. Major ethnic groups: Kikuyu (17%), Luhya (14%), Kalenjin (13%), Luo (11%), Kamba (10%), Somalis (6%), Kisil (6%), Mijkenda (5%)

7. Major religions: Christianity (85%), Islam (11%), Traditional and other religions (4%)

8. It is home to the Maasai, a group of indigenous people who live in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and who are known for their jumping dance and warrior skills.

9. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in December 1963.

10. The current Kenyan flag, adopted at independence, is full of meaning. The black represents the Kenyan people, red represents blood, green represents natural wealth, white represents peace, and the Maasai shield and spear represent the defense of freedom.

11. It is the third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa.         

12. It has 60 national parks and game reserves, including Nairobi National Park which is the only national park that exists within a capital city.  

13. Things to do in Nairobi include: the Giraffe Centre, the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Uhuru Park, the National Museum, Bomas of Kenya, high tea, great restaurants, and nightlife.

14. Tourist attractions include the wildebeest migration at the Masaai Mara; historical mosques and colonial-era forts at Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu; Mount Kenya; the Great Rift Valley; tea plantations at Kericho; coffee plantations at Thika; and the beaches along the Swahili Coast.

Photo credit: beautifulworld.com
Video credit: Magical Kenya
Video credit: Displore

Country Highlight: ETHIOPIA

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 79 0

Ethiopia is the oldest and the 2nd most populous country in Africa. Learn more fun facts about this fascinating country.

Fast Facts:

1. It is a landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa in East Africa.

2. It’s the 10th largest country in Africa and the 26th largest in the world.

3. Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.

4. It’s the oldest independent country in Africa and the 2nd oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia.

5. It’s the second most populous country in Africa, home to 113 million people.

6. It has more than 80 ethnic groups. The four largest are: Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigrayans.

7. It has more than 80 languages. Major languages include: Amharic (official), Afar, Harari, Oromo, Tigrinya, Sidama, Somali.

8. Major religions: Christianity (63%), Islam (34%), Traditional and other faiths (3%)

9. It’s the only country in Africa never to be colonized.

10. It is the only country in the world with a 13-month year. It follows the Ethiopian calendar, which is about 7 years and 3 months behind the Gregorian calendar.

11. It is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites: the ancient Aksum kingdom, Fasil Ghebbi and Gondar castles, the walled city of Harar, Konso Cultural Landscape, Lower Valley of the Omo, Lower Valley of the Awash, rock hewn churches of Lalibela, carved stelae of Tiya, and Simien National Park.

12. The Danakil Depression, in northeastern Ethiopia, is the hottest place on Earth, popular with tourists for its magical landscape with sulfurous hot springs, acid pools, steaming fissures and salt mountains.

13. Popular things to do in the capital include: the Addis market, Meskel Square, St. George’s Cathedral, Holy Trinity Cathedral, National Museum, Ethnological Museum, Derg monument, Lion of Judah, Entoto Hill, and enjoying traditional Ethiopian coffee.

Photo credit: ontheworldmap.com
Video credit: Top Tourist Places
Video credit: Ethiopia by HandZaround

Country Highlight: ERITREA

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 76 0

Eritrea is Africa’s 37th largest country, where you can experience 3 seasons in 2 hours. Learn more fun facts about this secretive country.

Fast Facts:

1. It is located in the Horn of Africa in East Africa and is the 37th largest country on the African continent.

2. Its capital and largest city is Asmara.

3. Eritrea means red and it was named after the Red Sea. It has a long coastline on the Red Sea that extends the length of the country.

4. Major languages: Tigrinya, Tigre, Afar, Beja, Bilen, Kunama, Nara, Saho, Italian, Arabic, English. Tigrinya, Arabic, and English serve as the three working languages.

5. Major ethnic groups: Tigrinya (55%), Tigre (30%), Saho (4%), Kunama (2%), Rashaida (2%), Bilen (2%), Other – Afar, Beni-Amer, Nara (5%)

6. Major religions: Christianity (63%), Islam (36%), other (1%)

7. In 1993, after a 30-year civil war, Eritrea succeeded from neighboring Ethiopia and became a sovereign nation. The border remains in dispute.

8. It is called Africa’s most secretive country and most of it is off-limits to tourists. Its land borders are closed to tourists so all visitors must fly into the country.

9. It is a former Italian colony and the Italian influence is still present. The capital city, Asmara, offers Italian colonial and modernist buildings, including the Saint Joseph Cathedral, Cinema Roma, Cinema Impero, Asmara Great Mosque, and Fiat Tagliero building, the unique Medeber market, the Tank Graveyard, and a variety of cafes and restaurants.

10. It is an off-the-beaten path location offering a unique blend of historical and cultural highlights, as well as tropical beaches, beautiful mountain ranges, and tranquil landscapes. Interesting locales include Massawa, home of the Imperial Palace which served as the winter residence of Haile Selassie; Foro, gateway to the Afar region and the ancient ruins of Adulis; and Keren, a traditional, predominantly Muslim city with a lively Monday animal market.

11. In order to visit any place outside of the capital, you must obtain a special permit for each place you visit.

12. Eritrea’s tourism motto is “3 seasons in 2 hours”, because in 2 hours it is possible to travel from Asmara, the cool ‘city in the clouds’ at 7,628 ft elevation, down to the sea level Danakil Depression to the hot coastal desert strip.

Photo credit: ontheworldmap.com
Video credit: Top Tourist Places
Video credit: Displore

Country Highlight: DJIBOUTI

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 84 0

Djibouti is Africa’s 8th smallest country, located in the Horn of Africa near one of the world’s busiest shipping ports. Learn more fun facts about this interesting country.

Fast Facts:

1. It is located in the Horn of Africa in East Africa and is the 8th smallest country in Africa.

2. Its capital and largest city is Djibouti City.

3. Major ethnic groups: Somalis (60%), Afar (35%), Arab and others (5%)

4. It has two official languages – French and Arabic – and two national languages – Somali and Afar.

5. Islam is the official religion practiced by 94% of the population.

6. It was a French protectorate during colonization and gained independence from France in June 1977.

7. It’s strategically located near some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and its port provides the biggest source of income and employment for the country.

8. It is one of the most militarized places in the world. It hosts the USA’s largest military base in Africa, China’s first overseas military base, and Japan’s first military base since World War II.

9. Lake Assal, a crater lake in central-western Djibouti, is Africa’s lowest point (515 ft/157 m below sea level) and the saltiest lake outside Antarctica.

10. Lake Abhe, on the Ethiopian border, is a steaming salt lake surrounded by a lunar-esque landscape used as the “Forbidden Zone” in the movie Planet of the Apes.

11. It is one of the world’s least visited countries, with less than 100,000 visitors annually, but its tourism industry is growing.

12. Djibouti is a great eco-tourism destination. The main tourist activities are scuba diving, fishing, trekking, hiking, bird watching, prehistoric petroglyph sites, desert canyons, off-shore islands, and beautiful beaches.

Video credit: Top Tourist Places
Video credit: @mahine_ of Shetravels

Country Highlight: BURUNDI

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 116 0

Burundi is Africa’s 10th smallest country and one of its off the beaten path destinations. Learn more fun facts about this amazing country.

Fun Facts:

1. It’s a landlocked country located in East-Central Africa and is the 10th smallest country in Africa.

2. Its capital and second largest city is Gitega. Bujumbura is its largest city and former capital.

3. Burundi’s primary exports are coffee, gold and tea, but it is one of the world’s poorest countries.

4. Burundi has the second-largest population density in sub-Saharan Africa, with only 13% of the population living in urban areas. Most people live on farms near areas of fertile volcanic soil.

5. Major languages: Kirundi (national and official), French (official), English (official)

6. Major Ethnic Groups: Hutu (85%), Tutsi (14%), Twa (1%)

7. Major Religions: Christianity (90%), Islam (5%), Traditional indigenous religions (5%)

8. It is one of the few African countries whose borders were not determined by colonial rulers.

9. During colonization, first Germany, and then Belgium, ruled Burundi and neighboring Rwanda as a common colony known as Ruanda-Urundi. At independence from Belgium in July 1962, Burundi and Rwanda became two separate countries.

9. Burundi’s currency is the Burundian franc (BIF). At current exchange rates, $1 USD equals approximately $1,894 BIF.

10. Burundi is considered an off the beaten path destination for most visitors. Tourism infrastructure is limited due to years of unrest, but its growing tourism industry mostly centers around nature, wildlife and culture.

11. Burundian drummers, locally known as Abatimbo, are one of the major cultural attractions.

12. Tourist attractions include: Kibira National Park (home to the country’s largest rainforest and rare colobus monkeys and chimpanzees), Rusizi National Park (home to hippos), Gasumo (the southernmost source of the Nile River), Lake Tanganyika (the world’s longest freshwater lake), Karera waterfalls, 10 thermal water sites, tea plantations, National Museum, Museé Vivant, and Gishora Drum Site.

Photo credit: timesfreepress.com
Video credit: PNUD Burundi

Month by Month Guide to Africa’s Best Festivals

Posted By : Travel Africa Movement/ 1709 0

With 54 countries and island nations, there’s never a shortage of things to do in Africa. Here are some its best festivals.

With 54 countries and island nations, there’s never a shortage of things to do on the African continent. Festivals provide a great opportunity to experience the diverse culture, music and food, while also benefiting the local economies. Here are some of the best ones you should consider attending.

JANUARY

The Equatorial Guinea Bodypainting Festival ~ Equatorial Guinea

The Equatorial Guinea Bodypainting Festival is one of the newest festivals on the continent, having only been launched in 2019. But it’s already gaining fans and spurring tourism to the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa. The festival includes tours, eco-adventures, and art workshops on mask making, pole dancing, and creative drawing, among others. Of course, the festival highlight is the amazing body paint presentations.

Timkat Festival ~ Ethiopia

Timkat is Ethiopian Epiphany Day, a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ, occurring across the country, but mainly in Lalibela, Gondar, and Addis Ababa. The festival happens every year on January 19 (January 20 in leap years), with preparations the day before (ketera) and three days of colorful processions, dance, music, prayer and a ritual baptismal re-enactment. This is one of the major religious festivals in Ethiopia and an excellent way to immerse oneself in Ethiopian history and culture. 

The Voodoo Festival ~ Benin

The Voodoo Festival is a celebration of the voodoo religion that takes place every year on January 10th  in Ouidah, Benin. This popular festival draws fetish priests, adepts, traditional chiefs and onlookers from across the globe. There are ritual sacrifices, dancing, drinking and drumming. Devotees assume the identity of gods, dressing up and transforming into that god as they do, with the realm of the magical close at hand. 

Video credit: Search for Uhuru

FEBRUARY

Abu Simbel Sun Festival ~ Egypt

The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples built as a monument to Pharaoh Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari and to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. The temples remain in darkness all year, except for two occasions on February 22 and October 22, when a stream of natural sunlight illuminates the entire complex. Tourists come from around the globe to see this solar phenomenon and architectural marvel, and to enjoy music, dance, food, drinking, market shopping and more. 

Carnival ~ Cape Verde

Carnival is celebrated on all 10 islands, but the biggest and liveliest celebrations happen in Mindelo on Sao Vicente island. The dates change each year, but the week leading up to Shrove Tuesday (February 25 in 2020) is filled with street parties and other events, culminating with the main parade complete with samba dancing, singing, live music, elaborate floats, and colorful costumes. Come ready to have fun because the celebrations start early in the morning and go on all day.

Video credit: Arpadinho Day and Night

Sauti za Busara ~ Zanzibar, Tanzania

This 4-day music festival is held every February and showcases African music from across the continent. Highlights of Sauti za Busara include 400+ live musicians, a carnival parade, impromptu jam sessions and after parties, with a backdrop of the beautiful beach views and island breezes of Stone Town. 

MARCH

Bouake Carnival ~ Cote d’Ivoire

Bouake Carnival is the Ivorian version of Mardi Gras. This weeklong celebration of life and friendship is held in late March in Bouake, the second largest city in Cote d’ivoire. Tourists and locals join together to enjoy great music, eat traditional foods, explore cultural markets, attend lively street parties and parades, and hear music from local artists and musicians from all over the continent of Africa.

Video credit: Hawkeye Production

Cape Town International Jazz Festival ~ South Africa

Touted as Africa’s Grandest Gathering, Cape Town Jazz Festival is one of the biggest jazz festivals on the continent. This 2-day festival is hosted in the beautiful Cape Town and known for its all-star lineup of local and international acts.

APRIL

Festival of Urban Music of Anoumabo (FEMUA) ~ Cote d’Ivoire

This annual music festival is a party with a purpose – the proceeds are used to build schools and hospitals across the country. Started by Salif “Asalfo” Traoré, singer of the Ivorian band, Magic System, as a way to give back to the Anoumabo neighborhood, this celebration has morphed from a neighborhood party to a major festival, drawing crowds of more than 100,000 people to Abidjan. FEMUA features a variety of Ivorian and Pan African music and has an annual theme aimed at spurring social awareness and change. Be warned — the festival starts late and typically runs until 5:00 am.

Harare International Festival of the Arts  ~ Zimbabwe

The Harare International Festival of the Arts is one of Africa’s largest art and cultural festivals, held in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare. The 6-day festival and workshop program showcases Zimbabwean, regional and international arts and culture with dance, music, circus, street performances, fashion, spoken word, theater and visual arts. 

MAY

Azgo Festival ~ Mozambique

The Azgo Festival is a contemporary celebration of arts and culture, with a strong focus on artists from Mozambique and the entire African continent. The four-day festival includes live music, films, dance, artistic and cultural development workshops and gourmet street food vendors.

Bush Fire Festival ~ eSwatini (formerly Swaziland)

One of Africa’s most popular events, Bush Fire is an annual 3-day festival which showcases music, art and culture from all over the African continent. Through its mantra “Bring Your Fire”, Bushfire encourages creative expression and social change, and invites everyone to contribute and engage through a program of creative workshops, discussions, art exhibitions and guest speakers. 

Video credit: MTN Bushfire Festival

La Biennale de L’Art Africain Contemporain/Dak’Art ~ Senegal

La Biennale de L’Art Africain Contemporain, commonly known as Dak’Art, is a month-long contemporary arts festival held every two years in Senegal’s capital of Dakar. The festival features art exhibitions with a variety of national and international artists, as well as in situ mural and sculpture creations, lectures, films, live performances, African culinary presentations, and more. The next edition of Dak’Art is in 2020.

Saint-Louis Jazz Festival ~ Senegal

Held in the former French capital of Saint-Louis, the renowned Saint-Louis Jazz Festival happens annually in May and attracts local and international jazz greats. The 5-day festival is in its 28th year and attracts close to 100,000 music lovers from around the world.

Windhoek Annual Cultural Festival ~ Namibia

The Windhoek Annual Cultural Festival is a new festival, which seeks to promote Namibian cultural diversity and provide a platform for upcoming artists and entrepreneurs to exhibit and promote their businesses. Participants celebrate their cultural backgrounds through traditional dress, dance performances and food. Additional activities include a battle of DJs, choir competition, battle of chefs, eating competition and talent show.

Video credit: Southgate Films

JUNE

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music ~ Morocco

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is 10-day celebration held in Fes, in northern Morocco. The festival advocates music as a means of promoting dialogue and harmony between civilizations and is a combination of concerts, workshops and discussions on climate change, human and civil rights, social justice and other important issues.

Jazzablanca ~ Morocco

Jazzablanca is an international jazz festival held yearly in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city. The 9-day festival features local and international artists with a mix of famous and up-and-coming jazz, pop, rock, blues and funk. Food and fashion workshops are also held.

JULY

Zanzibar International Film Festival ~ Zanzibar, Tanzania

The Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), also known as Festival of the Dhow Countries, is an annual 10-day film festival held on Zanzibar island. ZIFF includes workshops and screenings of African films in various genres, including African Animation, TV series and Web series.

Panafest ~ Ghana

The Pan African Historical Theatre Festival, commonly known as Panafest, is a cultural festival held every two years for Africans and people of African descent. The festival is intended to bring together Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora around the issues raised by the transatlantic slave trade. The two-week festival includes a variety of cultural events, performance arts, dance and music workshops, speaking colloquiums, and tributes to the ancestors. The next Panafest is in 2021. 

AUGUST

Chale Wote Street Art Festival ~ Ghana

Chale Wote has quickly become one of West Africa’s biggest and most popular events, with more than 100,000 attendees and 200 Ghanaian and international artists participating. The 10-day street festival includes street painting, graffiti murals, photo exhibitions, live street performances, extreme sports, African cinema, street boxing, a fashion parade, a music block party, design labs and more. 

Gaborone International Music and Culture Week (GIMC) ~ Botswana

GIMC is a weeklong annual festival that celebrates the city of Gaborone through music, theatre, comedy, poetry, fashion and other cultural activities. Performers include local, regional and international artists.

SEPTEMBER

Lake of Stars Festival ~ Malawi

Lake of Stars is an annual 3-day international music festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The activities include music, talks, poetry, theater, film, art and wellness activities from Malawi and across the globe. On-site camping is available and encouraged. The festival is on hiatus for 2020, but is expected to return in 2021. 

Nyege Nyege Festival ~ Uganda

Held on the shores of the Nile River, the 4-day Nyege Nyege festival is one of the biggest underground music festivals in East Africa. Nyege Nyege is a Swahili word meaning an uncontrollable urge to move, shake, or dance and you’ll do just that at this non-stop party and celebration of Ugandan and African culture. Nyege Nyege showcases an eclectic mix of music genres from Africans and the diaspora, including electronic music, Ugandan dancehall, Balani (Mali), Kweito (South Africa), Kuduro (Angola), Cumbia (South America) and more.  

OCTOBER

Felabration ~ Nigeria

Felabration is an annual music and arts festival commemorating the life of Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician and human rights activist known for pioneering the afrobeat music genre. The weeklong celebration includes a wide range of activities, including debates, symposiums, afrobics dance competitions, art exhibitions and competitions, and music concerts.

NOVEMBER

Mombasa Carnival ~ Kenya

The Mombasa Carnival is one of Kenya’s biggest and most popular festivals, held every year in November. This lively street party revolves around two parades, which converge on Moi Avenue and display Mombasa’s diverse cultures with an array of floats, traditional dress, music concerts, and dance. A mix of traditional and contemporary artists join the celebration.

DECEMBER

Afrochella ~ Ghana

Afrochella is Africa’s answer to America’s Coachella. This annual one-day festival seeks to highlight the thriving talent from and within Africa and features African music, culture, art, fashion and food. Related happenings, including panel discussions, charity events, and parties, are held the week of the festival.

Afropunk ~ South Africa

Afropunk is an annual alternative arts festival that includes live music, film, fashion, and art produced by black artists. The festival debuted in Brooklyn, New York and has since expanded to locations across the globe, including Johannesburg, South Africa. The two-day Afropunk Joburg features live concerts, panel conversations, battle of the bands, and food and craft markets. 

Calabar Carnival ~ Nigeria

Called Africa’s biggest street party, the Calabar Carnival takes place the entire month of December in the city of Calabar in southeastern Nigeria. It attracts more than 2 million revelers and has participants from 25 countries. The festivities include street parades, battle of the bands, concerts, art shows, street parties, food competitions, fashion shows, sporting events and non-stop parties. Carnival week, the final week between Christmas and New Year, is when most of the highlights occur. 

Video credit: Essence of Mae

Victoria Falls Carnival ~ Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls Carnival is a 3-day blowout party held annually at the end of December. The party starts on Day One with a Carnival train ride and secret bush party. Day Two features an electric safari concert with the best live house, African, indie and electro-pop music. The party culminates on New Year’s Eve, with a concert and year-end countdown complete with fire breathers, traditional dancers, and a host of African music artists. All of the fun is held in the backdrop of Victoria Falls, one of the biggest and most famous waterfalls in the world.