Kilimanjaro festival seeks place on world culture map

Monday January 31 2022
Kilimanjaro Cultural Festival.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu visits a stand showcasing the preparation of traditional foods at the Kilimanjaro Cultural Festival. PHOTO | COURTESY | STATE HOUSE DAR ES SALAAM


Some international tourist destinations are famous for their annual festivals, like the Carnival in Rio, Munich’s Octoberfest, the Madi Gras in New Orleans, La Tomatina in Spain, Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico, and the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China.

In East Africa, cultural festivals have not caught on and are far in between when they happen, compared with the annual international music festivals. Uganda has the Nyege Nyege festival and Tanzania has Sauti za Busara.

This past weekend, the first Kilimanjaro Cultural Festival, a two day-feast of food, dance, history and culture was held in Moshi town, northern region of Tanzania.

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu graced the festival, giving a boost to its profile. She said holding cultural festivals will boost tourism, cultural and historical heritage safaris for the region.

Held under the shadow of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, the festival’s attractions included traditional food like matooke (bananas) cooked in various ways, and the famous alcoholic beverage mbege — made from the juice of boiled ripe bananas mixed with cooked finger millet porridge and fermented for three days.

Roast bananas are also eaten with roast goat meat in a feast of the forgotten traditional cuisine of the mountain people.


The Kilimanjaro region has a lot to offer for history buffs, which is part of the festival, said Frank Marealle, chairman of the Tanzanian traditional chiefs.

The history heritage circuit involves a visit to the 40-kilometre trench dug by local freedom fighters during the war with German colonisers between 1892 and 1900.

Full package

Kilimanjaro is sold as a full package for the visitors who enjoy nature through forest walks on the trails to see waterfalls, crater lakes or even a short hike up the mountain.

The Mkuu Cultural Tourism Enterprise in Rombo, run by youth and women, keeps the cultural heritage alive.

Festival co-ordinator Linus Lasway said they organise short trips and homestays in the surrounding villages. There are visits to coffee and banana farms, to banana brew makers and local food dives.

“We offer authentic cultural tours and insight into the daily life of the Chagga people on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro,” he said.

“Our visitors are primarily tourists interested in the people, the rich history, cultural heritage and lifestyles. They stay with us to enjoy our lifestyle directly in the village before or after visiting the wildlife, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and other places in Tanzania and Kenya,” Lasway said.

Visiting rates have been set depending the itinerary, places to visit and number of days of the stay. Visitors booked for a day-long cultural tour pay Tsh25,000 ($11) for a Tanzanian and East African citizen.

Daily rates for foreign visitors outside East Africa are between $35 and $40 per day, per person. The rates include guided tours, food and transport around the villages.

Accommodation is available in village homes or homestays for Tsh20,000 ($9) for a single room and Tsh30,000 ($13) for a double room.

Visitors can fly in through the Kilimanjaro International Airport, or drive from Nairobi or Dar es Salaam. There are 12 public bus companies plying the route between Dar es Salaam and Rombo.