Being the cultural melting point of East Africa, the famous festivals in Kenya and Tanzania hold dear. Kenya and Tanzania are incredibly culturally diverse countries. The two countries have over 200 different tribes, each with its unique culture and sense of community.
Why Celebrate Festivals
Many communities in Kenya and Tanzania hold annual community festivals to celebrate their cultures. These festivals have been part and parcel of community celebrations over the years. East Africans deeply enshrined them as part of cultural traditions and practices.
The festivals are vehicles through which they pass cultural traditions and practices through performances and exhibitions. They promote intercultural understanding and communities’ diverse cultural expressions. Further, festivals are platforms for nurturing talents and provide avenues to market cultural expressions. These festivals in Kenya and Tanzania are a local and international tourists attraction.
There are famous festivals in Kenya and Tanzania with so many cultures. They dedicate their festivals to food, dance, music, art, craft, and sports. Although many other festivals are celebrated in Kenya and Tanzania throughout the year, below are the 14 most famous Festivals In Kenya and Tanzania.
Famous Festivals In Kenya and Tanzania
Lake Turkana Festival, May
Lake Turkana is a lake in Kenya which crosses into Ethiopia. They celebrate the Lake Turkana festival in May. One of the best things about the festival is that it puts cultural differences aside and helps foster a sense of peace and community.
The festival features unique performances from ten local communities around the Lake Turkana region. There is plenty of traditional food, dancing, and a range of fantastic things to see at this festival.
2. Kenyan Safari Rally – July
July is the time for Kenyan Safari Rally. This is a fast-paced race through the jungles of Kenya where drivers negotiate rough terrain and assortments of wildlife. Day 2, the rally finishes in Nairobi to a chaotic climax.
3. International Camel Derby, August
The International Camel Derby in Samburu is another famous festival in Kenya. It has gained popularity over the years. People all over the world bring colour, culture, and the finest racing camels to the International Camel Derby.
4. Mombasa Carnival- November
Often touted as the famous festival in Kenya, the Mombasa Carnival is a huge event by the side of the Indian Ocean. The November festival features a range of cultures from across Kenya, meeting in one of the most significant cultural hubs in East Africa.
The Mombasa Carnival is a true delight to behold with colourful parade floats, spectacular traditional dress, dance, and music. Come and sample Kenyan dishes, thanks to the street vendors who have set up shop.
5. Lamu Cultural Festival, Late November
Lamu is a small island in Eastern Kenya. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to several unique festivals worth seeing. The Lamu Cultural Festival gathers Kenyans to celebrate their past and future. This festival offers a unique understanding of what Kenyan life used to be.
Poetry, henna painting, donkey races, and architecture are all on display. The festival usually ends with a traditional Swahili wedding accompanied by traditional Swahili food.
6. Maulidi Festival, December
Maulidi Festival in Lamu is one of Kenya’s most prominent Islamic celebrations. It draws thousands of Muslims across East Africa and the Middle East to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Maulidi Festival puts on many events and attractions for people coming to the island to celebrate. Despite the international crowd, the music, dance, and culture seen in Lamu during this festival are uniquely Swahili.
7. Unification Day
Unification Day is also one of the famous festivals in Kenya and Tanzania and the biggest celebrated national festival in Tanzania. They celebrate this day to honor the union of Zanzibar and Tanzania that makes up today’s United Republic of Tanzania. You can see massive people matching, waving flags, and preaching the gospel.
8. Bagamoyo Arts Festival
Bagamoyo Arts Festival in Tanzania is organised every October in Bagamoyo. Visitors can either take part or observe the events such as acrobatics, traditional dance and drama performances, sculpture exhibitions, and poetry reading. They hold the festival annually to promote the craftsmen, sculptors, artists, and theatre groups of East Africa.
9. Karibu Travel And Tourism Fair
Karibu Travel And Tourism Fair is the largest tourism festival in East Africa held annually at Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. The fair in Arusha sees over 250 exhibitors and service providers present their local tourism products.
Tourists have several products, such as wildlife lodges, mountain climbing gears, camping supplies, and safari guides to choose from.
10. Mwaka Kogwa Festival
Mwaka Kogwa Festival is the Shirazi New Year’s celebration. The New Year begins with the men going for the banana stalk fight. The famous festival marks the end of all the misunderstandings and bitterness.
They later burn the stalks as a symbol of beginning the year anew. Later at night, the beaches are decorated for grand banquets where people celebrate and dance all night away.
11. Serengeti Cultural Festival
Serengeti Cultural Festival is an annual famous festival gathering people from around the globe at Serengeti National Park and the Lake Zone. The festival held in July is a traditional art dance festival that provides a great supplement for the Serengeti National Park Safari tourists.
12. Kilimanjaro Marathon
Tanzania’s foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro host the Kilimanjaro Marathon in March. The marathon starts and ends at the Moshi stadium. The race is held on smooth tar roads with a few slight but manageable inclines.
13. Nyama Choma Festival
Food plays a crucial role in any culture in the world, and Tanzanians are not far behind. The recipe for nyama choma, which in Swahili means “grilled meat,” is handed down through the generations. Tanzania holds the largest barbeque festival annually celebrating this recipe.
People flock Dar es Salaam and Arusha towns to try the lip-smacking Nyama Choma. From barbeque ribs to T-bone steak and grilled meat, this is the place to be in March for food lovers.
14. Zanzibar Beach And Water Sports Festival
Held annually, the Zanzibar beach and watersports festival is another famous festival in Kenya and Tanzania. It is a 3-day event to celebrate the beach life of Tanzania.
This festival in Tanzania includes sports games such as beach football, volleyball, and rugby, along with bike racing, kite surfing, and goat races. The sports festival has an entertainment section where bartending and yoga competitions are organised. Live music and jamming sessions complement food stalls.