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Zanzibar: A Cultural Activities
Zanzibar's rituals find their expression through the festivals and arts that colour the island throughout the year. Among the most popular festivals are:
Eid-el-Fitr is the festival at the end of Ramadhan, the month of fasting and it is the biggest the most respected of all festivals in Zanzibar. Also known as Iddi or Sikukuu (days of celebration, festival or holiday), this festival is a time of gift giving and of giving alms. The fasting of Ramadhan is meant to remind people what life is like for their less fortunate brethren and the alms giving at Eid (known as Zakat-el-Fitr) is a continuation along the same idea. Both fasting and the giving of alms are two of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.
Because the Islamic calendar is different from that of Christians. The dates for Ramadhan and Eid change every year by about 11 days. Ramadhan is a holy month in which Muslims refrain from various activities such as drinking, smoking, and eating which are prohibited during daytime.
Some restaurants are closed during this month and outside town can be difficult to get any food during daytime hours during Ramadhan. The festival is observed with great enthusiasm and pomp in the island. The islanders are in a merry-making mood and this is a time for visiting relatives and friends.
Eid is a nice time to see all the little girls in their new dresses and the boys in their new sneakers. The girls wear kohl around the eyes regardless of age, and the boys run around firing cap guns. There is a general feeling of celebration as people go from house to house visiting friends and relatives, preparing traditional Muslim food and attend Taarab concerts and discos at night.
The Eid celebrations lasts for four days and visitors can attend Eid festivities at the Mnazi Moja grounds across from the National Museum or at the Kariakoo fair grounds out by the Main Post Office.
A four-day-long celebration, Mwaka Kogwa is best observed at Makunduchi, a village in the southern part of Zanzibar. The origins of this holiday are Zoroastrian (a Persian religion older than Islam). It is a celebration of the New Year and some of the events include huge bonfires and mock fights.
These fights are between men who defend themselves with banana stems (in place of the sticks that were formerly used), and this fighting, in which everyone gets a chance, is said to let everyone air their grievances and so clear the air as the new year rolls in.
As the men fight, the women stroll through the fields singing songs about life and love. They are dressed in their best clothes and are taunted by the men - and hurl good-natured insults in return - after the fight is over. The festivities vary from village to village but Makunduchi is where the biggest events take place. All are welcome for this festival which takes place at the end of July.
Sauti za Busara Festival
"Sounds of Wisdom" Swahili Music & Cultural Festival... A 3-day weekend cultural extravaganza of music, theatre and dance. The theme of this new, dynamic festival on the African cultural calendar is Swahili Encounters, focussing on showcasing a diversity of performing arts which are all rooted in Swahili language and traditions.
One of the Sauti za Busara Festival in Stone Town
Zanzibar International Film Festival
ZIFF presents the annual Festival of the Dhow Countries during the first two weeks of July. The festival celebrates the arts and cultures of the African continent, the Gulf States, Iran, India, Pakistan and the islands of the Indian Ocean, collectively known as the Dhow countries. The centre piece of the festival is a film programme consisting of both competition and non-competition screenings. Fiction and documentary film and video productions compete for Golden and Silver Dhow Awards.
While competition films are limited to productions with Dhow country connections, the festival programme includes films/videos from all over the world addressing themes which reflect concerns within the Dhow countries.
Activities and events include music, theatre and dance performances, workshops and exhibitions. A large music programme also runs for the festival featuring artists from Tanzania alongside international acts. Many of these events are staged in Forodhani Gardens and free to the public. There are also workshops and seminars for women and children, and Village Panoramas which reach about forty villages across the Zanzibar islands of Unguja and Pemba.
Bullfighting is a popular, traditional and annual sport in Pemba Island. Pemba bullfights are relic of Portuguse occupation of the island, which occurred during the16th and17th centuries. Drum beats, men and women sing local songs to make the event lively and spur on both bull and matador. It’s a purely sporting event and the bulls are not killed as Spanish do.
There is no specific dates when the bullfightings are organized but usually during the hottest time of the year. This is between August and February.But some times it is done after clove harvesting or during the state ceremony such as Revolutionary Day of Zanzibar.
Source: Zanzibar Commission for Tourism