African festivals in January include new year celebrations in South Africa and Muslim festivals in North Africa. The wonderful music "Festival au Desert" in Mali's desert is worth planning your trip around.
Click on the headings for more information about each festival and event.
It's summer in Cape Town and the New Year is celebrated in great raucous style in the form of a carnival. The parades are huge flamboyant affairs with grand costumes, wonderful marching bands, singing, dancing and more. Needless to say, few Capetonians make it to work on the 2nd of January.
Three days of traditional Touareg art, music and dance traditionally takes place in Essakane, 2 hours from Timbuktu, Mali. International acts from Europe and West Africa round out the festivities. Everyone camps in the desert with their camels close at hand. A truly unique cultural event that is well worth the trek. In 2013, due to unrest in Timbuktu, the show is going on the road in true nomad style. The "Western Caravan" will start in February 2013, check the official web site for final dates and locations. Taking a tour is highly recommended because of the somewhat volatile situation in Mali.
Where: Segou, Bamako, and , Mali
When: February - March (2013)
In the Maghreb region, New Year's eve is actually celebrated on the 12th January. The Amazigh people of North Africa will celebrate their own New Year for the 2,960th time in accordance with the Julian calendar. Families come together to enjoy steaming plates of chicken and couscous and welcome the New Year. For some Amazigh, it is essential not to eat spicy or bitter food so those will not be the flavours for the year ahead.
Where: Maghreb Region, North Africa
When: 12 January (annual)
Music food and processions mark Ethiopia's biggest festival. The origin of the Feast of Epiphany dates back over 1000 years and once the ceremonials are over it's time to shake your hips and join in the vigorous dancing. The best places to enjoy the festival are Gondar, Lalibela and Addis Ababa.
When: 20 January (2013)
Africa Cup of Nations is one of the continent's biggest sporting events. The soccer tournament is held every two years. Sixteen national teams made it through the preliminary stages. If you're traveling in Africa during the Cup, you'll know when the matches are being played because countries literally come to a standstill to watch or listen to the games. The 29th Cup of Nations will be held in 2013, hosted by South Africa. In 2013 the tournament made a switch to even years (so it doesn't clash with the World Cup.
Where: South Africa
When: 19 January - 2 February (2013)
When: 27 January (2013) - (annual)