The Harare International Carnival is one of the most important celebrations in Zimbabwe. It has become the flagship cultural project of the small African territory, being able to reach major countries interested in it.
The extravagance of this event quickly made it one of the most important carnivals in the world, where music and dances are joined by ancient body rituals that manage to transport tourists to times gone by.
This carnival is the perfect activity for multiculturalism, as participants from different countries end up engaging different cultures and sharing unique experiences with the locals.
If you have the opportunity, the Harare International Carnival is one not to miss.
When is the Harare International Carnival held?
The Harare International Carnival is held at the end of May by government institutions of Zimbabwe. Even so, its date is somewhat flexible and can also happen between June and August.
How long is the Harare International Carnival?
The Harare International Carnival was inaugurated by the President of Zimbabwe, setting its duration for a full week. Therefore, during the 7-day celebration, the iconic festival in Harare turns into the best party of the year.
While there are other activities held throughout the year, none of them are like the Harare Carnival. In fact, preparations for this grand celebration begin months in advance.
According to weather sources, there is usually an average of 24°C maximum and 10°C minimum in May, with unusual rainfall.
In June and August, both with a very similar weather, there is an average of 22°C maximum and 7°C minimum, with virtually no rainfall.
Make the most of the 7-day carnival by visiting these tourist spots!
In the 8 provinces of Zimbabwe there are always many activities and places to visit. For this reason, visitors should plan ahead during the week of the Harare International Carnival.
Most of the carnival activities are focused in Harare, but you can also find cultural events in the entire African country. The festivity is celebrated in many forms across all cities, making the carnival a nationwide event.
Make sure to visit these 4 resorts in Zimbabwe during the Harare International Carnival:
- National Botanical Garden of Zimbabwe: Located in Harare and 4 kilometers from the city center. This garden is a mandatory stop for visitors, where you get to enjoy a space of up to 7 km2 full of vegetation.
- Hwange National Park: this 15-kilometer long area can only be visited in a guided tour. Here you can find up to 500 types of different species, which include elephants, lions, giraffes, and much more.
- Victoria Falls: An indescribable paradisiacal place you won’t find anywhere else. This rare and incredible waterfall in the middle of the Zambezi River covers about 1.7 kilometers long and 108 meters high.
- The ruins of Zimbabwe: If you are a fan of archeology, you cannot miss the ruins of this country, believed to date back to the 11th century. Without a doubt, you will be able to discover unique experiences by walking where the ancestors of Zimbabwe walked.
Where does the Harare International Carnival take place?
Many won’t be able to find on the globe where the Harare International Carnival is celebrated, but it actually takes place on the great African continent, specifically in Southeast Africa.
The International Carnival of Harare is an ancient ritual of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Regarding the name of the country, there are many theories addressing its origin, but today’s sources hold that “Zimbabwe” derives from the Shona language and it means “houses of stones”.
This hidden place has Botswana to the west, Zambia to the north, South Africa to the south and Mozanbique to the east. In addition, it is subdivided into 8 provinces that include a typical savanna biome, although with forest characteristics, and depending on the area, there is a lot of vegetation.
Here are the 8 provinces of Zimbabwe that celebrate the Harare International Carnival!
- Mashonaland Central.
- Mashonaland East.
- Mashonaland West.
- Matabeleland North.
- Matabeleland South.
All provinces in Zimbabwe have a rich African culture that is able to surprise foreigners. The culture, in addition to this thousand-year old carnival celebration with incredible shows that take you back to ancient times, makes for an incredible experience.
Meet Harare, the center of the Carnival!
There is a reason for the Harare International Carnival to be named like this: the center of this celebration is Harare, capital of Zimbabwe and the most populated and active city in this African country.
The city is famous for many things, and one of them is its unique streets, which are adorned with jacaranda trees, creating an urban landscape colored in purplish blue. Even so, the city’s true strength lies in the fact that the Harare International Carnival is hosted there.
The entire event takes place near the Harare Gardens and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The majestic parade filled with the sound of drums and exotic costumes travels from the Jason Moyo St. to Glamis Arena.
For this and other reasons, Harare is the main destination to visit when looking to build cultural ties, discover unique experiences or simply to watch this special carnival.
How safe is it to travel to Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe has a medium overall danger. This means that you do have to consider various factors so that you won’t be at risk.
While crime rate is high, both for minor and major crimes, most registered offends are street robberies, something very common in tourist hubs.
To prevent these situations, travelers should take caution to reduce the risk of theft as much as possible. In addition, there are other dangers in Zimbabwe, so visitors should always stay alert.
Here we broke down the safety of Zimbabwe into 8 points:
- Scam risk: High.
- Risk for women: Medium.
- Terrorism risk: Low.
- Robbery risk: High.
- Natural disaster risk: Medium.
- Pick-pocketing risk: High.
- Risk in transport: Medium.
- Overall risk: Medium.
Getting out of our comfort zone always implies certain risks, but if we already made up our minds… what better option than attending one of the best carnivals in the world?
What is the Harare International Carnival?
The Harare International Carnival is a representation of beauty and creativity, where the locals take to the streets dressed in eccentric and dramatic costumes, accompanied by the rhythm of percussion as the dances go on for an entire week.
This carnival has become the most important celebrations in Zimbabwe. Thanks to this iconic holiday, the country has been able to attract many international visitors looking for unique experiences, which has been a tremendous help for workers and merchants.
The celebration of the Harare International Carnival is not only an event with parades and people in costumes, but much more than that. The entire carnival takes over the lives of the Zimbabweans, changing their routines in the days that it lasts.
The social relationships, the food, the drinks, the way they dress, the music, colors, faith displays… Everything is combined in a festivity like no other.
What makes the Harare Carnival ‘international’?
In 2013, the Harare International Carnival welcomed more than 1 million visitors from up to 14 different countries. Then in 2014, it surpassed that number, with attendees of more than 19 countries around the world. The figures continued to rise, making the carnival earn worldwide recognition.
Countries like Italy, Brazil, Zambia, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, United States, and many more have attended the carnival… this is why the African holiday is considered international, since major countries have their eyes on this unique event.
The main reason for this holiday was having a time to celebrate the diversity of Zimbabwe. With this simple idea in mind, the country managed to attract millions of people from all over the world to watch more than 7,000 dancers in costumes parade.
Everyone gets to participate in the Harare International Carnival
The Harare International Carnival is also called the “people’s event” because all the Zimbabweans join in the mysterious acts that the celebration entails.
The event organizers say that the purpose of the performances and dances is, to a large extent, showing the world the artistic skills of the participants as a major goal they have set themselves.
The culture of the African country is quite diverse among each community, and expands even further thanks to the Harare International Carnival, which brings together the citizens to celebrate the most important event of the year for Zimbabwe.
Book your Hotel and Flight for the Harare International Carnival
History of the Harare International Carnival
The way carnivals are celebrated with performances and images has slowly become part of people’s lives in all cultures. In fact, the celebration of any popular festivity has always been an inviting space for laughter and fun.
The same can be expected in the Harare International Carnival, which follows this cultural and thousand-year old tradition. The grotesque, obscene and dramatic are mixed with dances and music rituals in the form of artistic expressions.
The Harare International Carnival is a space to transgress social limitations, and this unique phenomenon is already being studied by anthropology. Here, the vivid incarnations that people show with their costumes are a social commentary on material and bodily life.
In fact, the Harare International Carnival is one of the few that still recaptures the ancestral origin of these rituals, and it is precisely because the culture of Zimbabwe is closely related to the sacred and ancient side of African history.
Why was the Harare International Carnival established?
Zimbabwe has always suffered crises of all kinds and, given the economic-social decline, the country opted for the introduction of socio-cultural activities that would attract the interest of travelers.
This is how the Harare International Carnival was born in 2013 thanks to the Ministry of Tourism of Zimbabwe. This great festival made it possible to see an increase in tourists who visited the country and its remarkable provinces.
So far, the Harare International Carnival has:
- Increased people’s knowledge of Zimbabwe and given visibility to the destination, the locals and the culture throughout Europe and America.
- Caused an increase in domestic tourism. This has resulted in its own inhabitants adding value to the Zimbabwean economy.
- Promoted the true talent, artistic skills and creativity of people. African art stands out for its uniqueness.
- Created a platform to appreciate and acknowledge other cultures. Multiculturalism is recognized as a source of life.
- Encouraged the citizens to participate and join in the carnival.
- Established political and economic relations with foreign powers.
- Promoted the local music industry.
The Harare International Carnival is first and foremost a cultural hub where Zimbabweans can give form to the iconic African culture and show it to the world.
Harare International Carnival Events
The Harare International Carnival, which runs through the course of a week at the end of May, has different daily events prepared for those attending it.
The week during the carnival is loaded with activities that get the citizens of Zimbabwe excited. The seven days of festivities are very rich and joyful, where the fun, singing and dancing keep the carnival going.
The Election of the Carnival Queen
The contest for The Election of the Carnival Queen is an incredible event held at the Harare International Carnival. The act is also known as “Carnival Queen Zimbabwe” and is an ode to the beauty of African art.
The carnival dedicates an entire day to the Carnival Queen event, where a stage is prepared so that the contestants can shine wearing their costumes. As its name suggests, only women can participate.
During the contest, the women wear amazing costumes with lots of decoration that make them sparkle, but also give the dresses uneven shapes. First-time visitors are usually surprised by the unique aesthetics of these costumes.
Throughout the year, several jazz festivals are celebrated in Zimbabwe. This has been possible thanks to an initiative promoted by UNESCO in African regions.
As expected, the Harare International Carnival would not be a real celebration without a large and exclusive event dedicated to jazz. Lovers of this music genre will be able to enjoy spectacular and one-of-a-kind sessions.
The organizers of the Harare International Carnival, as well as other government officials, planned an event called “exotic nights”. This is a set of events that exclusively take place at night.
Some of the acts are:
- Comedy Night: Monologues and comedy performances are held in various spaces.
- Rumba Night: This traditional music genre has a particular way of dancing.
- Samba Night: Various exotic dances fill the atmosphere of the carnival.
- Tourism Night: Relaxed walks at night to learn more about the country’s history.
The festival schedule created for the Harare International Carnival is quite packed and diverse, with several days of events where you can enjoy music and dances.
There is no carnival without music, and this is why the event is very focused on activities where music is involved.
Complete Tour of the Harare International Carnival
The International Carnival of Harare is the festival with the largest number of artists in the entire country and the African continent. Since it is one of the most important events of the year, the schedule has to be perfectly designed.
The complete tour of the Harare International Carnival does not start until its second-to-last day. Even so, all the other days are filled with celebrations where you get to discover African culture.
Harare International Carnival Parade Route
On the second-to-last day of the carnival, the parade runs through the streets of the capital of Zimbabwe. Make sure not to miss any of it!
Learn about the Harare International Carnival route here:
- The parade starts on Simon Muzenda St. It is a very wide, big and long street, so the location is simply great for the audience. Thanks to its width, those wearing costumes are able to perform and dance freely.
- After a long walk, the parade makes it to Jason Moyo St. Like before, this one is also a very wide street with considerable width. The best thing about this location is that it has many shops and malls where you can eat, so it’s a great place to sit down and enjoy the show.
- The parade ends at Africa Unity Square. Its large water fountain becomes the stage for carnival costumes, and the square’s unique rounded shape means that the last performance of the parade can be seen from all angles.
Feeling hungry? Try out these dishes at the Harare International Carnival!
The Harare International Carnival is the perfect opportunity to discover Zimbabwe’s unique cuisine. Who would miss the opportunity to try out the typical dishes of this African country?
Near the route made by the parade you can find stalls and open establishments where you can enjoy an appetizer; and the best thing about tasting the local food is that you can tell it’s made with love and dedication.
In the diet of Zimbabwe, there is a high meat consumption, which includes: chicken, pork, cow, goat, etc. Oddly enough, fish caught from freshwater rivers is also in their menu.
Some of the typical Zimbabwean dishes are:
- Muriwo Unedovi: Green cabbages mixed with peanut sauce.
- Muboora: Stew made of pumpkin leaves and meat.
- Kapenta: Local fish from Lake Tanganyika.
- Sadza: Local bread and a staple in Zimbabwe.
- Nyama: Roasted beef with mixed greens.
- Maheu: Non-alcoholic corn drink.
Many of the recipes are centuries old and were discovered by natives of yesteryear. We highly recommend that you try out the exotic flavors of these dishes.