Zanzibar’s reputation as an island paradise is not an exaggeration. Zanzibar is actually a whole group of islands – two large islands –Ungoja and Pemba plus other small islands. The beautiful island features an entire eastern coast and miles of sandy pristine beaches. If you are a beach or sun lover and you have a thing for snorkeling, Zanzibar is your destination. There you will find amazing beaches, vast coral reefs, relaxed atmosphere and seafood dishes that will make your holiday a memorable one.
Be Part of the Adventure Action in African Savanna
Sailors and traders from the first century AD came to the lands of ‘Zinj el Barr’, the Black Coast, bringing beads, porcelain and silks to trade for gold, slaves and spices, ebony, ivory, indigo and tortoiseshell. They waited for annual monsoon winds to fill their dhow sails and bear them across the Indian Ocean; today’s visitors usually arrive in a small ‘plane or ferry from Dar es Salaam.
But these still afford a measured approach, allowing a breathtaking vision of sparkling cerulean waters over sandbanks and reefs, and then into Stone Town, the ancient island capital, still more of a town than a city, a maze of winding pedestrian streets in a hotchpotch of rooftops, a mass of corrugated iron overwhelming the historic stonework beneath.
Helplessly entwined in its own history, the people of Zanzibar are the Swahili, evolving from the influx of mainly Arabian and Persian immigrants who settled on the East African coast and islands to trade and escape the political upheavals of the Gulf two thousand years ago. Their cultural history was founded in sailing dhows, similar to those that glide by its shores today, boats that brought people, language and cultures and long centuries of power wrangling.
Driving through the island centre now, it is worth stopping to explore the spice plantations, where a guided walk for passing tourists is likely to be more lucrative than vast crops to export, but it is a fine sensual pleasure to crumble cinnamon bark straight from the tree, to breathe the scent of cloves drying in the sun, to taste and guess the spice from a handful of pods and powders.
These are well used by the chefs and kitchens in beach hotels, where fishermen daily bring the catch of the day to be grilled, baked, battered or blanched with assorted Zanzibar spice.The coast is dotted with hotels, self-contained beach hideaways that relish their privacy and provide various levels of style and comfort.
I have been to most and head north by choice, to the northernmost peninsula which is occupied by Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel. The name is a very literal Swahili translation, but it says nothing of how this beach is secluded and the coral sands are blanched very, very pale. It does not tell how the wonderfully translucent and clear the sea is here, where a coral reef surrounds the shore creating a shallow wide expanse to explore until the tide rises high and then turquoise waves crash onto the beach. It is a naturally beautiful place.
A continent of 54 countries, 2000 languages and over 3000 tribes, Africa has a staggeringly diverse array of cultures. It’s no surprise that Africa is home to some of the best cultural festivals on the planet – everything from food and music to art and film – in some truly spectacular locations, such as isolated deserts, medieval cities, on the shores of a lake or on a tropical island.
Here’s a round up of 8 of the best cultural festivals Africa has to offer. Add these to your bucket list!
1. AfrikaBurn, South Africa
Based on the famous US festival Burning Man, AfrikaBurn is the continent’s most alternative arts festival. Everything that happens in Tankwa Town (the temporary settlement where 10 000 festival goers gather in the Karoo desert) is up to the creativity of participants. There is no entertainment organised – instead the participants of the festival create their own art works, their own music and their own performances. You have no idea what to expect each year, but you’re guaranteed an experience that will blow your mind.
2. Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco
If you love the idea of music festivals, but aren’t into sleeping in a tent or stomping around in a muddy field, then the Fes Festival is probably your cup of tea. Each year the medieval Moroccan city puts on a festival of sacred music from around the world – expect everything from whirling dervishes from Turkey, dancers from Bali and chanting Sufi mystics from Iran – in stunning venues such as centuries-old palaces and atmospheric garden courtyards.
3. Zanzibar International Film Festival
East Africa’s largest film, music and arts festival takes place every year on the tropical island of Zanzibar. Films from around Africa are screened in venues across the island, culminating in an awards night on the final night of the festival, while the music performances, DJ sets and dancing create a carnival atmosphere.
4. Lake of Stars, Malawi
The Lake of Stars festival has been named one of the world’s best by the UK’s Guardian newspaper, and it’s easy to see why. The music festival takes place on the shores of beautiful Lake Malawi, with local Malawian musicians playing side by side with bands and DJs from around the world – many of whom play for free just for the chance to get involved in this feel-good event. There’s a range of music on the line up, from electro to Afro-pop, and while you’re taking a break in between checking out the acts, you can swim in the lake, laze on sandy beaches, or get involved in one of the festival’s community projects.
5. International Festival of the Sahara, Tunisia
You probably couldn’t think of a more exotic location for a festival than an oasis in the Sahara Desert. Douz, a place where palm trees outnumber residents, swells in population by 50 000 each year when people arrive to share in a four-day celebration the art, traditions and culture of the people of the desert. Expect to see camel marathons, displays of horse riding, a Bedouin marriage, lively dancing, music performances and a poetry competition.
6. Bushfire, Swaziland
Each year the tiny country of Swaziland draws 20 000 people for its three-day Bushfire festival – an arts event that encompasses film, theatre, poetry and visual arts performances, as well as music and dance in a beautiful valley. All of the profits from the festival are given to NGOs and charities, so just by attending you contribute to Swaziland’s development.
7. Sauti za Busara, Zanzibar
For 10 years Zanzibar has been host of the “Sounds of Wisdom” festival – a celebration of the best music from across the African continent. Each year there’s a diverse line up of acts, covering genres such as Zimbabwean rap-rock, Senegalese reggae and Rwandan Afro-pop. In addition to music performances, during the festival you can also catch fringe shows of drumming, music documentaries and traditional dancing.
8. Gnaoua World Music Festival, Morocco
The coastal 18th century town of Essaouira rings out with the sound of music at this annual festival which sees traditional Gnaoua musicians (descendants of slaves from sub-Saharan Africa) joined by jazz, pop, blues, reggae, hip hop, Sufi, Latin and rock musicians, attracting around 500 000 people. The performances (many of which are free) take place on the town’s beaches, historic sites, public squares and beaches as Essaouira is transformed into a musical oasis.
How to travel responsibly
How to travel responsibly, being a responsible budget traveler Tourism in developing countries can be both a blessing and a curse – each individual leaves his or her mark upon a place.
Small decisions that we make along the way as travelers insure that future travelers find a place as welcoming and magical as we did.
Travel and tourism should be planned and executed as a means of individual growth and development. When practiced with an open mind, it is an awesome source of self education, mutual tolerance and for learning about the diversity and wonderful nuances that make our planet such an interesting place.
Everyone has a responsibility for creating and promoting responsible travel and tourism. Governments, business and communities must shoulder their share of the load, but as a budget traveler you can support this in many ways that make a huge difference:
- Open your mind to other cultures and traditions. It will transform your trip and you will earn respect and welcome of the local people. Be tolerant and respectful, making sure to observe social and cultural traditions and practices.
- Respect human rights. Exploitation in any form conflicts with the fundamental purpose of travel.
- Help preserve natural environments. Leave things the way you found it – or better. Protect wildlife and habitats and do not purchase products made from endangered plants or animals….this includes animal products, novelty insects, etc…
- Respect cultural resources. Activities should be conducted in a way that respects the artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage of a place.
- Support the local economy – they need it. Purchase local handicrafts and products using the principles of fair trade. Bargaining for goods should reflect an understanding of a fair wage – don’t fall victim to traveler scams, but that merchant probably needs the difference more than you do.
- Get up to date about the destination’s current health situation prior to departure and be assured that your health and personal security will not be threatened. Make sure that you have the means to remain healthy and happy before you arrive in a new place.
- Learn as much as possible about your destination and take time to understand the customs, norms and traditions in an effort to avoid accidentally offending the local population.
- Learn the local laws so that you do not accidentally break them. Refrain from all trafficking in illicit drugs, arms, antiques, protected species and products or substances that are dangerous or prohibited.
Responsible travel is not complicated. Getting into the mindset that you are going to leave a place in better shape than you found it by doing your part and encouraging others, will ensure that the doors will be kept open for future budget travelers!
provided by StepUpTravel.org
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