7 Popular Festivals In Unguja, Tanzania

festivals in zanzibar
Tenissa
Tenissa 
Contributing Writer
Updated
| 3 min read

Africa may not be the first continent on the list of travel destinations for many globetrotters, but it should be because the continent is loaded with plenty of amazing countries like Tanzania. Situated in the eastern part of Africa, Tanzania is known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. The country’s main island, Unguja, also known as Zanzibar, is a place that you should definitely visit. If you make a stop at Changu Island, you will have the opportunity to see giant tortoises. To snorkel and dive, the best spot will be Mnemba Island. In addition to attractions, Unguja has festivals to help you understand more about the history, culture, and traditions of the locals. Read on to find out about the popular festivals in Unguja, Tanzania.

1. Zanzibar Cultural Festival


You do not want to miss taking part in Zanzibar Cultural Festival, one of the largest festivals in Unguja. The event usually takes place when July is about to end, and it is important because it displays just how rich and diverse the culture of the island is. Traditional customs and the history of Unguja are showcased through a variety of musical performances, traditional dances, art pieces, and craftworks. You will fall in love with their music called taarab. In addition, you can also enjoy races, carnivals, and fairs scattered throughout the streets.

Zanzibar Cultural Festival

Address: Zanzibar Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Takes place: July 19

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2. Zanzibar International Film Festival

vibe at ZIFF 2013
Source: Photo by user ZIFFphoto used under CC BY 2.0

What if you are more of a movie lover instead of a music lover? Do not worry because Unguja also hosts an annual event called Zanzibar International Film Festival. Taking place in July, this event lets you gain insight into the cultural heritage of not only Unguja and Tanzania but also East Africa and even the Middle East. Movies from countries around the world are showcased during the festival. In addition to the movies, attendees can also enjoy dances and workshops in the evenings.

Zanzibar International Film Festival

Address: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Website: Zanzibar International Film Festival

Takes place: July

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3. Zanzibar Beach and Watersports Festival [Last event in 2019]

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

? Did you know that this sport was actually originated in an island? It all...

Posted by Zanzibar Beach & Watersports Festival on Sunday, November 17, 2019

The beauty of nature is something that we all need to appreciate, and in Unguja, there is a festival that is specially dedicated to this. Celebrate the beauty of the beach by participating in Zanzibar Beach and Watersports Festival. This event usually takes place for three days either at the end of November or the beginning of December on Mfumbwi Beach on the southeast coast of Zanzibar. During the festival, there will be a variety of events, such as kayaking, beach run, beach volleyball, and kite surfing. In addition to sports, you can also enjoy some musical performances and dances by emerging local artists.

Zanzibar Beach and Watersports Festival

Address: Mfumbwi Beach, Jambiani Mfumbwi Village, Tanzania

Takes place: December

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4. Sauti za Busara Festival


Another music festival that is worth attending in Unguja is Sauti za Busara Festival. This music festival does not target a specific genre, so it has become one of the most known festivals in the country. It takes place every February for four days, and it is aims to celebrate the important role of music in the lives of the locals. This event also showcases an excellent combination of dances, theatrical acts, and musical performances. You can expect to enjoy hearing taarab as well as other genres that include hip-hop and rap.

Sauti za Busara Festival

Address: Old Fort, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Website: Sauti za Busara Festival

Takes place: February

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5. Eid al-Fitr


The majority of the people in Unguja are Muslims. Therefore, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important religious celebrations on the island. The Muslims fast for one month and after the fasting month ends, they celebrate Eid al-Fitr. You may have witnessed Eid celebrated in your home country or other countries around the world. It is unique to every country, so if you come during this time, you can enjoy the celebration that takes place in various venues across town.

Eid al-Fitr

Address: Zazibar Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Takes place: May

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6. Mwaka Kogwa Festival


Last but not least is Mwaka Kogwa Festival. The festival is held to celebrate the Shirazi New Year and is among the most unique events in Unguja. Prepare to be entertained by groups of men who fight each other with banana stems, while the women beautifully sing songs about life and love.

Mwaka Kogwa Festival

Address: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Takes place: July

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7. Jahazi Literary & Jazz Festival [Event has passed]

Posted by Jahazi Literary and Jazz Music Festival on Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Moving on to another celebration that is just as festive as Zanzibar Cultural Festival, you should also take part in Jahazi Literary & Jazz Festival. This event is a newcomer compared to the others, as it has been held for two years only. Despite its novelty, the festival has appealed to many locals, especially those who are fond of jazz music. With an aim to inspire young children through music and literature, the festival features a variety of workshops, readings, discussions, and forums with authors as hosts. After the literary sessions, the evening will be followed by a jazz session. Indulge in musical performances by local and international musicians.

Jahazi Literary & Jazz Festival

Address: Maisara St., Stone Town, Zanzibar Urban/West, Tanzania

Website: Jahazi Literary & Jazz Festival

Takes place: August

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Make sure to take part in some of the festivals in Unguja

Now that you know that Unguja also hosts several festivals throughout the year, you better mark your calendar so that you come to the island when there is one happening. Visiting the attractions may be enough to guarantee a wonderful vacation, but if you are looking to have the ultimate holiday in Tanzania, be sure to take part in at least one festival while you’re here.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Tenissa is a content writer, translator and editor. She enjoys being a globetrotter and has traveled to many countries around the world. So far, her favourite destination is Switzerland. She looks...Read more

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