Looking for ideas for new, unusual, inspirational or just downright weird things to enjoy and experience over the coming year? We’ve rounded up some of the top festivals across KQ’s global network in 2016
The world’s one big party – and KQ can be your entry ticket. Africa, Asia and Europe are bursting with annual extravaganzas ranging from traditional festivals and religious celebrations to cutting-edge contemporary cultural events. Choose from experiences ranging from dancing through the streets of London or visiting an avant-garde Parisian art installation at three in the morning, through to feasting with the locals in Zanzibar or experiencing at first hand the surreal counterculture of AfrikaBurn.
• Timkat, Ethiopia, 20 Jan 2016
Mystical Christianity meets countrywide carnival during Timkat, Ethiopia’s most colourful and ecstatic festival. Commemorating the baptism of Jesus, the festival sees many of the country’s forty million-odd Christians parade through the streets attired in ceremonial white robes, with sumptuously dressed priests carrying a Tabot (a model of the Ark of the Covenant) at the head of each procession. Worshippers then gather around a local stream or pool, keeping watch until dawn, when the water is blessed and sprinkled on celebrants in a ritual reenactment of Jesus’ baptism (more enthusiastic worshippers jump headlong into the newly blessed pool) – after which the Tabot is returned to church, accompanied by the vibrant sound of trumpets, bells, drums and singing.
• Fly KQ to Addis Ababa
• Also this month – Dubai Shopping Festival, 1-31 Jan
Credit cards begin quivering in anticipation as Dubai’s month-long shopping extravaganza kicks off at the city’s myriad malls, featuring mega discounts and special promotions along with loads of free entertainment and other special events. www.mydsf.ae
• New Year’s Day Parade, London, 1 Jan
Join the crowds for the 30th anniversary of London’s traditional New Year’s Day parade, complete with thousands of dancers, acrobats, cheerleaders, musicians and performers from across the city.
• Tet, Vietnam, 7-9 Feb
Out with the old and in with the new is the essence of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year and spring festival – the perfect time to turn over a new leaf, settle old debts or disputes, or launch a business. Houses are cleaned and decorated, and prayers offered to one’s ancestors, while children receive gifts of money in traditional red envelopes. Outside, the streets are busy with exuberant celebrations. Spectacularly costumed lion dancers roam the streets, accompanied by crowds armed with fireworks, drums and gongs, and making as much noise as possible in order to frighten off any evil spirits lurking in the vicinity.
• Fly KQ to Hanoi
• Also this month – Festima, Dédougou, Burkina Faso, 27 Feb to 5 March
Fabulously masked and costumed performers from across the region gather in Dédougou, dancing themselves into a trance to the hypnotic beats of the accompanying drums. www.festima.org
• Elephanta Festival, Elephanta Island, Mumbai, dates to be confirmed
Indian folk and classical music and dance performances by top local artists against the magical backdrop of Elephanta’s historic cave temples.
• Holi, India, 23 March
Another of Asia’s innumerable spring festivals, Holi is an ancient Hindu event celebrating the victory of good and evil – although nowadays it’s better known as the ‘festival of colours’. Come the day, participants take to the streets armed with huge quantities of coloured powders and dyed water which they then chuck and squirt enthusiastically over one another until sundown – by which time pretty much everyone involved looks as if they’ve just stepped out of a painting by van Gogh or Matisse. Originally a predominantly North Indian affair, it’s now celebrated all over the country (and indeed in many other places worldwide). Festivities in Mumbai are particularly intense.
• Fly KQ to Mumbai
• Also this month – Stille Omgang, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 12 March
The haunting Stille Omgang (‘Silent Procession’) sees thousands of devotees taking to the streets of nighttime Amsterdam in a ritual procession celebrating the 1345 Miracle of the Host. www.stille-omgang.nl
• Black Heritage Festival, Lagos, Nigeria, dates to be confirmed
Week-long festival celebrating the rich history and culture of Black Africa with music, dance, drama and various exhibitions. During the seven days hundreds of artists perform in Badagry and Lagos. www.lagosblackheritagefestival.com
• AfrikaBurn, Tankwa Karoo National Park, South Africa, 25 April to 1 May 2016
AfrikaBurn is about as alternative as any African event gets, inspired by its core values of community, counterculture and radical self-expression. Participants camp out in the Karoo for a week amid a collection of enormous temporary artworks (all incinerated at the end of the event) seizing the chance to escape the normal rules of society and do their own thing, whether that involves (say) walking around dressed up an as alien druid, riding a giant mechanical snail or simply dancing and dreaming under the stars. www.afrikaburn.com
• Fly KQ/Kulula to Cape Town
• Also this month – Songkran Water Festival, Thailand, 13-15 April
Three days of countrywide festivities celebrating the Thai New Year during which vast crowds of party-crazed locals take to the streets with buckets and hoses in the world’s biggest water fight.
• Harare International Festival of the Arts, Harare, Zimbabwe, 29 April 29 to 4 May
A true melting pot of a festival, offering six diverse days of local and international visual and performing arts in all their forms. www.hifa.co.zw
• Tulip festival, The Netherlands, April-May
The Netherlands transform into a blaze of colour from April through to May, as the country’s famed tulips come into bloom, transforming the carpet-flat fields into a surreal canvas painted in huge swathes of red, yellow, pink and orange. The area between Haarlem and Sassenheim, close to Amsterdam, is the best for bulb-watching and is also where you’ll find the fairytale Keukenhof Gardens (www.keukenhof.nl), with their riot of floral displays and vast quantities of tulips – around seven million bulbs on any average year.
• Fly KQ to Amsterdam
• Also this month – Doadoa, Jinja, Uganda, 4-7 May
Doadoa, the ‘East African Performing Arts’ market, brings together a wide variety of African performers and others involved with the arts in a stimulating programme of concerts, conferences and workshops. www.doadoa.org
• Rhino Charge, Kenya, 30 May
Legendary off-road motorsport event, with drivers navigating their way across a hundred square kilometres of rugged Kenyan terrain. www.rhinocharge.co.ke
• Dragon Boat Festival, Hong Kong, 9 June 2016
Hong Kong goes into full-on party mode for a day during the city’s annual dragon boat festival, with amateur races at various places around the city and elite international competitors from around fifteen countries battling it out on Victoria Harbour. Decorated with ornately carved dragon heads and tails fore and aft, the enormous boats (measuring over ten metres in length) have room on board for around twenty rowers. A drummer at the front sets the tempo for each collective pull of the oars, the steadily accelerating beats urging crew members on to the limit of their strength during races amidst a great watery heaving and churning.
• Fly KQ to Hong Kong
• Also this month – Luwawa International Mountain Bike Race, Malawi, mid-June
Popular forty- to fifty-kilometre bike race starting at the Luwawa Forest Lodge and running along the ridges and through the forests of the scenic Viphya Mountains.
• Safaricom Marathon, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya, 25 June 2016
Marathon set in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and attracting a mix of elite international athletes as well as local amateurs. www.lewa.org
• Mwaka Kogwa Festival, Zanzibar, mid-July
Celebrating the Zoroastrian new year, the unique Mwaka Kogwa (‘The Washing of the Year’) festival was brought to Zanzibar by Shirazi immigrants from Persia over a thousand years ago. The festival is all about working out your aggression and settling scores in preparation for the new year, centred on a series of mock battles. Male combatants merrily bash each other with the stalks of banana plants while local ladies provide a ribald running commentary mixing songs, insults and jokes. The event concludes with the ritual incineration of a coconut-thatch hut, followed by several days of feasting and music.
• Fly KQ/Precision Air to Zanzibar
• Also this month – Oppikoppo, Limpopo Province, South Africa, 12-14 Aug
One of South Africa’s biggest music events, with bush-camping for fans and a fabulous array of local and international acts playing everything from rock to reggae. www.oppikoppi.co.za
• Zengcheng Lychee Festival, near Guangzhou, China, five days in July, dates to be confirmed
Annual festival held at the small town of Zengcheng to celebrate the local lychee harvest.
• Notting Hill Carnival, London, 27-29 Aug 2016
The spirit of the Caribbean descends on west London for the weekend during the Notting Hill Carnival, one of the world’s biggest street festivals. First held in 1966, the original carnival happened almost by accident when a steel band that had been providing music for a children’s party decided to go walkabout around the area. Today the event serves as a glowing example of multicultural London in all its sequinned and feathered glory. Two days of flamboyant parades are the main attraction, and there’s also plenty of music to dance to, with calypso, soca, salsa and steel drums galore. www.thenottinghillcarnival.com
• Fly KQ to London
• Also this month – Maralal Camel Derby, Maralal, Kenya, mid-Aug, dates to be confirmed
Held in the remote Samburu town of Maralal, this colourful camel race attracts professional riders from across Africa and beyond, as well as amateurs. The three-day festival also includes a mountain bike race, alongside other cultural events.
• Hungry Ghost Festival, Hong Kong, 17 Aug
Hong Kongers devote the day to appeasing the restless spirits of their dead ancestors with offerings including food, fires and the burning of fake money, accompanied by performances of Chinese opera.
• Africa Concours d’Elegance, Nairobi, end Sept
Take a ride back into the past at Nairobi’s ever-popular Concours d’Elegance, an annual parade and competition featuring seventy vintage cars and forty classic motorbikes – some of the oldest and most beautifully maintained vehicles you’ll ever see. Former winners include 1920s Chevrolets, Fords and Fiats, 1930s Alvis Firefly and Railtons, and a 1951 Daimler. But it’s not just about wheels – there’s also plenty of family fun, with a dedicated children’s entertainment centre, live band music and a fly past. www.concourskenya.com
• Fly KQ to Nairobi
• Also this month – Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai, India, 5 Sept
Mumbai’s biggest festival, during which a giant statue of the elephant-headed god Ganesh is paraded through the city and then cast into the sea.
• Meskel, Ethiopia, 28 Sept
Ethiopian Christians celebrate the fourth-century discovery of the True Cross by Queen Eleni with huge bonfires and processions.
• Nuit Blanche, Paris, 1 Oct 2016
One ‘white night’ during which the city really doesn’t sleep, Paris’ Nuit Blanche festival showcases a dawn-to-dusk extravaganza of cutting-edge art and culture across the city. Hundreds of galleries, cultural attractions and historic sites stay open until first light, while various festival directors take over different parts of the city, filling it with weird and wonderful artworks and installations. Entrance is free to all attractions, while music and dance performances keep the energy flowing – although mainly it’s the chance to see one of Europe’s most beautiful cities in a uniquely new light that really appeals.
• Fly KQ to Paris
• Also this month – Nairobi Marathon, Nairobi, late Oct, date to be confirmed
The flagship endurance race in the country that has arguably produced more world-class distance runners than any other, with amateur and professional athletes battling it out on the streets of the capital. www.nairobimarathon.com
• Festival Kreol, Seychelles, last week in October
Week-long celebration of the islands’ creole identity and culture featuring local music, dance, arts, crafts and cooking in the capital Victoria and elsewhere across Mahé island.
• Loi Krathong, Thailand, 15 Nov
Celebrated across Thailand, Loi Krathong is a time both of looking down into the waters and up into the skies. The main Loi Krathong festival is held in honour of the country’s Mae Khong Kha water spirit, with specially made candlelit baskets (krathong) set afloat on rivers and lakes nationwide, accompanied by fireworks and beauty contests – celebrations alongside Bangkok’s majestic Chao Phraya river are particularly spectacular. Celebrated simultaneously across the north of the country, the Yi Peng festival sees huge numbers of ‘sky lanterns’ (khom loi) being launched into the air, filling the night with innumerable dots of light.
• Fly KQ to Bangkok
• Also this month – Karibu Music Festival, Bagamoyo, Tanzania, dates to be confirmed
In beautiful Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian coast, Karibu serves up three eclectic days of live African music ranging from reggae and hip hop to contemporary taarab.
• Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai, one week in mid-Dec
The Gulf’s leading film festival, this week-long event showcases international arthouse films, with a particular focus on work by Arab artists, as well as films from Africa and Asia. Screenings are held at the stunning Madinat Jumeirah complex and other locations around the city, and the festival usually pulls in a good number of international celebs – 2014 saw Eva Longoria, Emily Blunt, Paul Bettany and Anil Kapoor strutting their stuff on the red carpet, amongst many others. www.dubaifilmfest.com
• Fly KQ to Dubai
• Also this month – Lamu Maulid Festival, Lamu, Kenya, 11-13 Dec
Celebrating the birth of the Prophet with all sorts of events including sword dances, religious recitations and dhow and donkey races, culminating in an exuberant parade through the picturesque streets of old Lamu.
• New Year’s Eve, worldwide, 31 Dec
Parties are held across the world to welcome in 2017 – celebrations are particularly upscale in London and Amsterdam, and also at the flamboyant Jo’burg Carnival, complete with spectacular floats, giant puppets and cheeky costumes galore.