Africa is one part of the world where culture and all its components mean so much to her citizens. Virtually every cultural group across the length and breadth of the continent observe or organize one or more special events, annually or otherwise, peculiar to them either in form of rituals, animal hunting, tree planting, or paying homage to a deity or traditional ruler. Some may take place as an open air festival of music, arts exhibition, carnivals or sporting events. These cultural celebrations are usually age long practices and they usually foster a sense of brotherhood, statesmanship and the need for members of such a community to peacefully coexist.

On our blog this week is about some of the coolest carnivals from Africa! Lets pay a visit to the north of Africa, in the ancient civilization of Egypt where one of the most popular festivals in Africa originates from and takes place twice a year. The Abu Simbel festival is what it is called.

Visitors gathered at the mouth of the Abu Simbel temple to observe the shadow of the sun cast on the statute of Rameses II

The Abu Simbel festival as it is called, is a festival of the sun tied to the legend of Pharaoh Ramesses II, the second longest reigning monarch in Egypt and the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty of ancient Egypt. Ramesses built the Abu Simbel temple which eventually housed his statue (Ramesses), alongside three other gods - Ra, Amun and Ptah. Ramesses sits with these gods, because as a pharaoh, he too was considered a god. This festival happens to celebrate the anniversary of Ramesses' ascension to the throne (in February) and his birthday (in October).

Fans of Ancient Egypt will adore this festival, which takes place on October and February 22nd of every year. The magic of this festival is all in the timing – at these two times of the year, the sun aligns with the entrance of the Abu Simbel temples honouring Ramesses II and his wife, Queen Nefertari, to illuminate two of the three statues within – leaving Ptah, the god of the underworld, in darkness.

In the 1960s, the building of the Aswan Dam threatened to submerge the great temple in water. Because of this, a massive reconstruction project took place where different countries worked together to take apart and rebuild this great temple where it was safe 200 metres away.

Statue of Pharaohs Rameses II and other gods of Egypt

Many people gather extremely early in order to watch as the sunlight starts to hit the innermost temple room at sunrise. Once the statues fall back into shadow after the sun continues to rise, people tend to gather to eat and drink and celebrate. There are often traditional singers and dancers to celebrate the event.

Today the festival is celebrated by accompanying traditional Nubian dances, live music, and plenty of street food outside the venue – and it might be one of the coolest additions to an Egyptian getaway or vacation. So if you consider taking a trip to Egypt in Africa, you could make plans to come in February or October so you can witness this great Egyptian wonder of a festival. This would definitely pass for an experience of a lifetime.