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Calabar Carnival – The Largest Street Party in Africa (My Experience)

Christmas is in the air and what better subject to discuss than this amazing carnival that rocks the whole of Calabar. If you have not heard about the Calabar carnival, you are probably not a Nigerian or you live under a rock. The Carnival which started in 2004 under the government of Donald Duke was created as part of the vision to make Calabar a worldwide tourist destination. The carnival is a month-long event, from 1st to 31st of December with various interesting activities from fashion shows to boat regattas, balls and dinners, etc. however, the main carnival dates are from 26th to 30th. During which there are performances by various bands in colourful costumes.

I attended the carnival last year and it was a blast. The streets of Calabar was buzzing; it was full of life, colour and lots of people. Hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions attend the carnival yearly and this is a great revenue making venture for Calabar. The theme for the Carnival last year was ‘Climate Change’ so the various bands wore costumes and had presentations that represented the theme. It was beautiful.

calabar carnival

The main carnival kicked off on 27th of December with the Biker’s festival. This was the first time a separate day was added for bikers and the theme was ‘Hot Wheelz’.  It was a display of several professional bikers from all over the world. They did a parade with several stunt performances, jaw-dropping and risky moves. We all know bikers can be complete show-offs, and when they gathered for the festival, they put on a show. The Governor Ben Ayade said that including the Biker’s festival was an economic move as they knew that this would attract lots of foreign bikers and bike lovers into Calabar. He was right, as there were lots of foreign visitors.

On the 28th of December was the carnival main day and street parade – also known as the largest street party in Africa. The Carnival literally takes the whole day, starting from about 7am till 3am the next day and covers more than 30km which is almost the whole of Calabar. There are six bands, five competing bands and the Governor’s band which includes celebrities, actors, musicians and other notable people. The competing bands are Bayside, Seagull, Passion 4, Masta Blasta and Freedom band. Each year, these bands follow the theme of the year and stand to win millions if they emerge as the best band. Passion 4 won last year, taking the title from Masta Blasta the defending champions; they had won the competition 3 years consecutively from 2012.

calabar carnival

In the evening after the parade, everyone gathered at the stadium and all the bands had special performances, with displays and special sessions for the king and queen of each band. There were also international performances from different countries like Brazil, Italy, Belize, Kenya, etc. Various musical acts such as Patoranking, P-Square and many more which thrilled the audience. The next day, several events where held at the stadium, the cultural centre and some other places around town. It was a memorable experience.

I would be attending the carnival again this year with Social Prefect Tours and I honestly cannot wait as it is going to be bigger and better. This is a major tourism event for Nigeria and you should be there.


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