Zanzibar Festival of the Dhow
Tanzania Travel Guide

Come and enjoy cross-cultural displays of creativity, music and theatre in a vibrant and historic setting, at the Annual Festival of the Dhow Countries, in Zanzibar, a celebration of art in many forms, particularly the art of film making.

The Festival of the Dhow Countries- Zanzibar

The organisation behind this event is the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which was established in 1997 to promote social and economic growth through the development of the film industry and other related cultural endeavours in this region. Zanzibar is a deeply historic and vibrant centre which epitomises the energy of the festival.

The Dhow was chosen to represent this cross-cultural celebration because of what it symbolizes - tradition and travel. The Dhow is an Arab sailing vessel which has been used extensively for transport and trade along the Indian Ocean coast of Africa for centuries.

This elegant craft with its single sail has an historic and cultural significance. Communication and tourism links have been forged between countries and an identity created with the use of this vessel. For many, the Dhow represents a magnificent journey into adventure.

The Experience

The Festival of the Dhow Countries is an annual event and now one of the biggest in East Africa. Art and culture from Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands, the Gulf States, Iran and India is featured at the festival. The event is usually held in the first 2 weeks of July and each year has a specific theme.

Attendees can enjoy conferences, workshops and seminars in between displays of the performing arts including music and theatre shows. The festival programme includes special features, activities and discussions around the role of film in rural communities, women's issues plus children and youth development. The main highlight is the showcasing of film and video features for which there is a competition.

The event unfolds at various venues around the waterfront of Stone Town on Zanzibar Island. The final night of the event is set aside for the Zanzibar International Film Festival Awards and the airing of short films produced during the workshops.


Zanzibar is an archipelago of just over 50 islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. The most well known islands in this group are Zanzibar Island (also known as Unguja) and Pemba Island. The capital of Zanzibar is Stone Town on Unguja Island.

Stone Town which was carved from coralline rock in the 19th century is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a centre for Swahili culture. You can soak up the historic atmosphere while walking along the winding alley ways and admiring the magnificent doors of many Arabic dwellings. Although architectural restoration is a central issue, this is still a living city with colourful markets, mosques and interesting sites to visit.

South and East African Safaris
©2022 Siyabona Africa (Pty)Ltd - Private Tours and Safari