Zanzibar Festivals

The islands of Unguju and Pemba have a wealth of traditions many of which are recognised in numerous annual festivals and celebrations.


Eid El Fitr

This is the three-day festival that follows the end of Ramadan, when eating, drinking and smoking is prohibited during daylight hours. The date is dependent on the Islamic calendar, festivities usually begin in June.

Mwaka Kogwa

This four-day festival, which marks the arrival of the Shiraz New Year and takes place in July. Although celebrated in many parts of Zanzibar, it is in Makunduchi that the ancient rites are most enthusiastically followed. It involves huge bonfires; mocks fights between the men; and much playful banter between the sexes.


An annual boat race, held every August, featuring the double-outrigger canoes of the local people.

Sauti Za Busara

This is East Africa’s premier music festival and highlights the best music from the Swahili-speaking world. Featuring hip hop, R&B, rap and reggae along with the more traditional ngoma, taarab and religious music. Taarab is a form of local music that is a mixture of sounds and styles from India, Arabia and Africa. Ngoma is a traditional African dance with fast, rhythmic drumming. More than 400 musicians normally participate. The three-day event is held each February.

Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)

– is the highlight of Zanzibar’s artistic and cultural calendar. A two-week event, held every July, it features films from Africa and beyond. ZIFF also incorporates the annual Festival of the Dhow Countries which highlights the arts and cultures of East Africa, the Gulf States, Iran, India, Pakistan and the Indian Ocean islands. The main venue is the open-air theatre at the Old Fort but events also take place at various other venues across the island and on Pemba.

Jahazi Jazz & Literary Festival

Open air Jazz Concerts at the Old Fort, poetry readings, story telling, Cultural walks and the very best after parties in Stone Town. Usually held in early September.

Stone Town Food Festival October

This Festival showcases Stone Towns unique culture and rich Culinary heritage with hotels and eateries across the city taking part.