Archive for Festivals from around the world

‘Kung Hei Fat Choy!!!’ Happy New Year!!

China NY 1

Ni Hao!! It’s nearly February 19th which means only one thing, it’s Chinese New Year! In 2015 Chinese people all over the world will welcome in the year of the Sheep, however you don’t have to head all the way to China to join in the festivities! London’s Chinatown celebrations are the largest outside of Asia, so why not head down there and wish ‘Kung Hei Fat Choy’ (Happy New Year) to everyone!

 To celebrate we are offering a whopping £75.00 off any China challenge deposit when booked between no and the 15th March, simply quote SHEEP at the time of booking! So, if you’ve ever dreamed of walking, cycling, running or doing all 3 on and around the Great Wall of China, then what are you waiting for…?! Click here to see all the challenges and dates available.

China NY 2Officially the biggest celebration in the Chinese calendar, the New Year’s festivities (also referred to as the Spring Festival) are a spectacular 15 day affair, beginning this year on February 19th. Unlike our New Year’s Eve, the dates are based on the movement of the lunar calendar and vary annually between January and February depending on the New Moon. At midnight, firecrackers and fireworks will light the sky as China welcomes the New Year!

With 12 signs in the zodiac each representing a different animal, this year China welcomes the year of the Sheep. However, if you happen to be born in this year or any previous ‘Sheep year’ i.e. 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015 then you shouldn’t be celebrating. In China superstition deems that when it is your zodiac year, you should be wary, keeping a particular eye on your health, diet and be especially giving to avoid bad luck.

ChinaNy7

In China there are many well-entrenched superstitions originating from numerology, these state that the number 4 and 13 are unlucky with many buildings forgoing a 13th floor and many phone numbers avoiding 4 as a result.  Black and white represent funeral colours and are worth avoiding particularly during the festivities, with people favouring red as the dominant colour of good luck and good fortune.

To celebrate one of the world’s largest holidays we’ve conjured up some of the brilliant and bizarre things that make China one of the most quirky, diverse and beautiful countries in the world.

CNY4

Why YOU should go!

There are many reasons why China should be near the top of your bucket list, its stark contrasts offer futuristic cities, ancient monuments, stunning landscapes, a ruddy Great Wall, some curious snack options and the world’s cutest bears. It is also the world’s fastest growing economy overtaking the USA in January this year!

With a population totaling an astounding 1.39 BILLION, 1 in 5 people worldwide are Chinese, it’s therefore hardly surprising that China hosts some of the most extraordinary customs, inventions and landscapes worldwide, with vast ghost cities abandoned in favour of further expansion and 30 million people living in caves!

Below are some facts you might not have known about the country that invented paper, ketchup, football and allegedly ice-cream…..

  • The Great Wall  is truly one of man’s greatest architectural accomplishments and no visit to China would be complete without marveling at this phenomenal structure. Snaking 13,171 miles across the country, the majesty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site really does need to be seen to be believed!

CNY3

  • Despite its HUGE size, the whole of China is on just one time zone!
  • In answer to the vast pollution problems in big cities, ‘Fresh Air’ can be purchased in cans for just five yuan a can, available in a variety of flavours including ‘Pristine Tibet’ this is partly a campaign by creator Chen Guangbaio to raise awareness of China’s continually growing pollution problem, which in some areas is so bad that it can be seen from space.
  • Supermarkets are an eye opening experience with everything from frozen crocodiles to sharks available on the shelves. Bored of shark? Well why not try a whole turtle, pick up a couple of live frogs or go for the ‘mixed meat’ section where it really is a surprise every time. And we thought the horse meat scandal was… controversial.
  • If you thought the M25 was bad news at Friday rush hour, then China’s traffic jams would really wind you up with some of them lasting not hours, but WEEKS! I spy anyone…?
  • Bored of the average chocolate and crisp collections in the vending machines we know and love? Well in China they’ve thought a little outside the box, bringing live crabs to a vending machine near you and best of all they won’t break the bank at the reasonable price of just $2.

CNY5

  • Now we all know us Brits love a cuppa, but how do you feel about Panda Poo Tea? Officially the most expensive tea in the world 1 dried kilo can set you back nearly $80,000 USD! So why on earth would you part with that kind of cash for essentially brewed panda poo? Well because it is believed to aid with weight loss and fight/prevent cancer.

So, if you’re intrigued by the bizarre offerings of one of the world’s most historically and culturally interesting civilizations then take a look at the link below to our Great Wall Challenges: Great Wall

From all of us at Charity Challenge – Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Happy New Year!!!

CNY6

Many thanks to my lovely sources:

Diwali, the festival of lights

shutterstock_151123712

October 23rd 2014

Perhaps the best known Hindu festival, Diwali is an ancient and joyful celebration of the triumph of light over dark, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil. Diwali is a festival of peace and hope and in certain parts of India, signifies the New Year. The festival is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains.

Legend has it, that Diwali began after the great battle between the Evil King of Sri Lanka -Ravana – the 10 headed, 10 armed demon and the good King Rama. Ravana, kidnapped Sita, the beautiful wife of King Rama, after 14 years in exile and a long and terrifying battle, Rama killed Ravana, rescuing his wife and returning to Ayodhya for his coronation. On the dark night of their return, the King and Queen could not find their way and so to help them, the people lit their path with candles and diyas, beginning the festival of lights.

Traditionally, Diwali falls on the New Moon between the Hindu months of Asvina and Kartika. On the darkest night of Autumn, usually around late October, the night sky comes alive with candles, lanterns and diyas – (small oil lamps), as people decorate their homes to welcome in Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth. Whilst the origins of Diwali vary slightly depending on the region, across India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, it is a major celebration that sees people coming together to share gifts and food.

The festival is typically a 5 day affair and begins with:

Dhanteras, day 1: traditionally people clean, renovate and decorate their homes in preparation, with internal and external decorations. Today signifies the birthdays of Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Dhanvantari, Goddess of Health, diyas are kept burning all night in their honor.

Naraka Chaturdasi, day 2: beautiful Rangoli (typically lotus flowers) are drawn on the floors of homes, Henna is drawn on hands and homemade sweets are prepared for the main day of Diwali.

Diwali, day 3: this is the main day of the festival, people dress in new clothes and meet with relatives to exchange gifts and sweets. Lakshmi is rumoured to wander the earth on Diwali night, people often leave their windows and doors open and help light her way with diyas and perform pujas (prayer rituals) to gain her blessing for the coming year. As night falls, fireworks light the sky to chase away evil spirits, and people celebrate with food and festivities.

Padwa Balipratipada, day 4: today celebrates the return of the demon King Bali to earth, people celebrate the love and devotion between husbands and wives and gifts are often exchanged.

Bhai Duj, day 5: According to legend, the God of Death, Yamraj visited Yami, his sister on this day, she fed him special dishes and garlanded him. Today, women and girls perform pujas for the goodwill of their brothers to emphasize the love and lifelong bond between siblings.

India is a land of fabulous festivals, from the decorating of camels at the bizarre Bikaner Camel Festival to Holi, the world’s largest festival of colours. Why not head over there on one of our incredible Charity Challenges, cycle or run through Rajasthan, trek Little TibetSummit Stok Kangri or Hike the Himalaya…

blog 2

Valentine’s Day all around the world

It’s that time of the year again! For many people, St Valentine’s day can feel monotonous and commercial, all fluffy pink love hearts and cherubs, and teenagers sending each other Justin Bieber themed E-cards! However, outside of the UK and the US, there are still places where the festival of love is celebrated in more traditional, unique and frankly bizarre ways! So if you’re looking for inspiration for new ways to mark the ‘day of lovers’, then read on…

Brazil
In Brazil, Valentine’s day is not traditionally celebrated on February 14th, since the nation is still in the throes of the Rio Carnival. Instead, they celebrate the “Dia dos Namoradas”, otherwise known as the “Day of Lovers” on June 12th, on this day a feast and parties are held to celebrate the patron saint of romance and matchmaking.

If your approach to St Valentines day mirrors Brazil’s work hard, party harder ethic, then you should check out our Brazil Trek and Kayak Challenge! This is one of our most unique and varied challenge – the combined elements of rainforest trekking and sea kayaking make this a very tough challenge! But on the completion of your challenge in Rio, you will definitely have reason to celebrate! And of course, what better place to celebrate with your Valentine than underneath a Rio sunset?

Romania
Romanians also don’t traditionally celebrate Valentine’s Day, they instead celebrate “Dragobete”, a more earthy rural festival on February 24th that denotes a celebration of lovers, spring and new life. It’s a day when traditionally “birds get betrothed” i.e. Start building their nests’, girls collect snow to melt for magic potions and children sing songs of spring. It is also said that if during a couple’s dance, one lover steps over the foot of another, then that lover will play the dominant role in the relationship! So if you’re planning on going out clubbing this evening to celebrate St Valentines, take note!

If you find these medieval notions of magic potions and rural living romantic, then you should defiantly check out our Trek Transylvania, where you and your beloved one could journey through rugged landscapes in a tough challenge that culminates in a visit to the enigmatic Dracula’s Castle.

China
China celebrates two Valentine’s Days, the first being the 14th of February St Valentines Day that we all know and love (or hate!). The second day of celebration of love is a little more unusual and falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This day – known as “Qi Xi” or “Magpie Festival” comes from a Chinese legend over 2000 years old – and is the ultimate story of star crossed lovers! Like all folk tales, there are many variations of the Qixi Festival legend, but the basic story is usually the same: Niulang – a cow herder, and Zhinv – a weaver girl who is also the daughter of the Goddess of Heavan, meet on earth and get married. When the Goddess discovers this she orders her daughter back to heaven. The cowherd followed her there and in anger the Goddess cuts a river into the sky – the Milky Way, thus separating the two lovers. But once a year, all the magpies of the world fly up to the Milky Way to bridge the river and allow the two lovers to meet.

To celebrate this day, lovers visit the Temple of the Matchmaker and pray for love, happiness, and marriage. Singles also visit the temple to ask for luck in love. It is also traditional for young girls to carve melons and offer up fruit to the deities on this day.

If legends of star crossed lovers inspire you, then take a look at our Great Wall Discovery Challenge, where you and your lover will have to overcome 1000s of steps to reach your destiny.

Sweden
In Scandinavia, couples here will exchange “lover’s cards” on February 14, and like us, indulge in the commercial St Valentines day. But they do have a poetic and quirky card tradition known as the “gaekkebrev”, whereby the man sending this special card will write a rhyme for the lady to whom he’s sending it, but instead of writing his name he will sign off with a dot for each letter of his name. The puzzle is then for the lady receiving the card to guess the name of the sender. If she can guess correctly, her prize will be an Easter egg at Easter. But if she doesn’t guess, she owes the sender an Easter egg instead!

If this puzzling addition to Valentine’s Day brings out your competitive side, then check out our Dog Sledding Challenge in Sweden, where you’ll need to figure out how to successfully drive your own team of huskies, mushing over 200kms through beautiful, frozen landscapes. And as our Swedish Ground handler Jordana puts it “What could be more romantic than cuddling together on reindeer pelts by open fire whilst hearing the sleddogs howl to the northern lights and full moon!”

So there really is 100 different words and ways to say “I love you!”

Here at charity challenge, we think there is nothing more romantic or love affirming than taking on a challenge of a lifetime together – supporting each other up the mountains, sleeping together under the stars, taking in the most beautiful views in the world! You can see the top 5 list of Charity Challenges most romantic challenges here.

To see the many other amazing challenges we offer, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Chinese New Year: Year of the Snake

Charity Challenge veteran team leader, Trevor Gibbs gives us his personal slant on the Chinese New…

A time for feasting, families and fun, the Chinese New Year is the longest and most important of China’s traditional holidays. Also known as the ‘Spring Festival’, the 15 day celebration ends on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which this year falls on the 10 February 2013. Celebrated in Chinese communities throughout the world, the new year festivities can trace their origins back to the legend of a voracious beast called the Nian, which once devoured livestock, crops and villagers across mainland China. In reality though, it is more likely that these colourful (and loud) celebrations evolved as a means of heralding the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

In Chinese communities across the world pigs, ducks, chickens and sweet delicacies are sacrificed  to a celebration of family, thanksgiving and reunion. The spirits of the ancestors, along with the living, are believed to come together as one great community on New Year’s Eve, to honour the past and the present. The Chinese probably consume more food during these New Year celebrations than at any other time of the year, with huge quantities of fish, dumplings, rice and vegetable cakes joining the feast. The abundance of food, the obligatory firecrackers and the fiery red lanterns that adorn every house are all believed to trace their origins back to the mythical legend of the ferocious Nian.

As you might expect with a people as traditional and superstitious as the Chinese, New Year brings with it many customs and taboos. Chinese houses should be cleaned before New Year’s Day, as it is believed that to clean or dust on the day itself could sweep good fortune away. All debts should be paid and nothing should be lent, and everyone is discouraged from using foul language or ‘unlucky’ words. Even crying is discouraged, as it is believed that if you cry on New Year’s Day, you will cry throughout the year. This is particularly good news for unruly children, who tend to be tolerated by their long suffering parents for fear of burdening themselves with a snivelling offspring for the coming year. It is also believed that appearance and attitude during New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year. Red is considered a particularly auspicious colour to wear and red envelopes, often filled with money, are given out to young and old alike.

Visually, Chinese New Year is a blaze of colour, with lanterns, flowers and decorations joining the exuberant displays of dragon dances, drums and clashing cymbals across the globe. It is also a time of hope for many Chinese, with the deafening pops of thousands of firecrackers driving away the evil spirits for another year. As the Chinese themselves say…迎春接福 (Yíngchúnjiēfú)

…“Greet the New Year and encounter happiness”

China is one of our most popular destinations and we have three fantastic challenges in which you can see the country. You can now trek, cycle and now even run and see China at its very best. Our challenges in China are:

Great Wall Discovery
Great Wall Cycle
Great Wall Run

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

For more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:

http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

<Images taken from Google>

Rio Carnival – the biggest party in the world!

Charity Challenge veteran team leader, Trevor Gibbs gives us his personal slant on the Rio Carnival

Long regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World, Rio de Janeiro plays host to one of the world’s most famous and colourful parties, attracting around half a million visitors to its city streets each year. First introduced into Brazil by the colonial Portuguese, the Rio Carnival has evolved into a unique mix of African and Amerindian cultures, with music, parades and samba schools turning the streets into a dazzling visual celebration of Brazilian culture.

This year’s celebrations take place between 8-13 February; a four day extravaganza that provides a stunning backdrop of outrageous costumes and a pulsating samba beat to one of the most spectacular artistic events on the planet. The carnival officially starts on the Saturday, going through to ‘Fat Tuesday’ and the beginning of Lent. Traditionally it is seen as a last farewell to the excesses of the body, before the abstinence of Ash Wednesday begins. For many though, it is simply the best party in the world!

Months in the planning, the carnival begins with the crowning of the Fat King (King Momo), after which the celebrations can begin in earnest. Each of Rio’s neighbourhoods provide carnival bands (more than 300 at the last count) and the local samba schools provide a continuous stream of entertainment over the four days, culminating in the Samba Parade on the final evening. A vital element of the Rio Carnival, many of the samba schools represent the poorer neighbourhoods of the city; the working class communities that live in the slums (favelas). Each school chooses a theme for the carnival and competes with its neighbours to create the best costumes and the best floats, before joining the throngs of party goers, drag queens and bands on the streets. Some of the bands have been known to attract up to 10,000 participants, closing down streets and gridlocking traffic, leaving drivers with little choice but to sit back and enjoy the moment.

Today, the famous parade takes place in the purpose-built Sambodromo stadium, the venue for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics. Designed by the famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, it is capable of holding over 90,000 people and is located at what is believed to be the birthplace of the samba, in the heart of the favelas. There are no hard and fast rules as to what to wear for the party (residents of Rio will even attend weddings and funerals in colourful shorts), but be prepared for a long night, as the celebrations go on until sunrise. And remember, if you really want to get into the party spirit, you can even join in on one of the main parades…All you need is a costume and a little rhythm. For more information, check out the official Carnival website: http://www.rio-carnival.net/

If your liking the sound of Brazil, then check out our Brazilian Trek and Kayak Challenge, an exciting challenge that combines trekking in the Serra da Bocaina National Park, part of a substantial swathe of rainforest between Rio and São Paulo, with kayaking in the tropical Bay of Paraty.

The Brazil trek and kayak is one of our most unique and varied challenge, and although we cannot guarantee that it will be plain sailing from beginning to end – the combined elements of rainforest trekking and sea kayaking make this a very tough challenge! But on the completion of your challenge in Rio, you will definately have reason to celebrate! If you want to learn more about this challenges and the many other amazing challenges we offer, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:

http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

The Lord of Miracles Festival in Peru

The largest city in Peru and the ‘Gastronomic Capital of the Americas’, the city of Lima was founded nearly 500 years ago by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro. Inspired by the occasion of the Epiphany, the city was named La Ciudad de Los Reyes (The City of Kings), in honour of the three Magi who travelled across the known world to witness the miracle birth of Christ. It seems fitting therefore that some two thousand years later, this same city should play host to one of the largest and most revered religious festivals in the Americas.The festival of El Señor de los Milagros (the Lord of Miracles) is a dazzling explosion of colour, singing and dancing that sees hundreds of thousands take to the streets to venerate a miracle of equally humble origins.

Believed to be one of the largest religious gatherings anywhere on the planet, the festival celebrates the huge image of a black Christ that was painted on a church wall by an Angolan slave nearly 400 years ago. In spite of all attempts to remove the painting, including the intervention of a massive earthquake in the 18th century that destroyed much of the city around it, the picture survived. Indeed, it survived to become the most venerated image in the city and each October it is paraded through the streets on the shoulders of an esoteric brotherhood called the cargadores. No mean feat given that the silver litter carrying the painting weighs close to a ton!

During these celebrations the city is turned into a blaze of purple, as the mes morado (purple month) as it is known, takes on a party atmosphere. The air is thick with incense and the streets echo to the sounds of musicians, penitents and toreadors, as the centuries old Plaza de Acho witnesses the start of Lima’s famous bullfighting season. As for the painting itself, well that begins its journey at the 18th century Las Nazeranas Church, travelling across the city to the beautiful Baroque setting of the Church of La Merced in Barrios Altos, a journey that takes it past stalls that are piled high with sweets and delicacies. Try the city’s famous Turrón de Doña Pepa, a delicious, sweet paste made with eggs, butter, flour, aniseed and fruit syrup.

This year’s festival takes place on the 18th, 19th and 28th October.

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Happy ‘Dashain’! Find out about this colourful Nepalese Festival here

The longest and most auspicious of Nepal’s annual celebrations, the 15-day festival of Dashain is also probably one of its most eagerly anticipated. As the skies above the bustling streets of Kathmandu fill with kites, families across the country prepare to don new clothes and celebrate the victory of the goddess, Durga over the evil demon, Mahishasura. This is a time for celebration and family. It has to be said though, the animal population of Nepal don’t greet the celebrations with quite the same level of anticipation. During the festival goats, buffaloes and chickens in their thousands become an integral part of the sacrifice and the feasting!

The festival begins on Ghatasthapana, the first day of the bright lunar fortnight of the month of Ashvin. On this auspicious day the priests bless the holy water vessel, known as the ‘Kalash’, which is then installed in a prayer room on a bed of soil that is seeded with grains of barley, wheat or rice. For the next nine days these vessels and their germinating seeds are chanted over and nurtured by the most senior male member of the household. By the tenth day, Dashami, the sacred grass (called ‘Jamara’) has reached a length of some six inches and it, along with a mixture of ‘tika’, made from rice, yoghurt and vermillion, is bestowed on the younger members of the family. The red of the tika is meant to signify the blood that binds the family together.

Whilst the celebrations last for 15 days, it is the first, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth days that are the most significant, with the celebrations reaching their peak on the ninth day. Known as Maha Navami, this marks the last day of Navarati, an occasion honoured by a day of military bands, gunfire salutes and state sponsored sacrifice. Also known as ‘Demon-hunting Day’, this is an occasion for the Nepalese to flock to the Taleju Temple in the heart of Kathmandu to watch the ritual slaughter of buffaloes. This is the only day of the year that the temple is open to the public, but be warned, this is not for the faint-hearted. By the end of the day the temple courtyard is running with blood. On a slightly more creative note (but no less bloodthirsty), the day also sees artisans, traders, factory workers and taxi drivers offering up sacrifices to the god, Vishwakarma, in the belief that he will bestow his blessing and protection on the tools of their trade.

The last day of the festival traditionally falls on the full moon, when it is believed that the goddess Laxmi descends to earth to bestow wealth and prosperity on anyone who remains awake all night. At this time the Kalasha and the remaining ‘Jamara’ grass is thrown into the river…and the animal populations of Nepal breathe a collective sigh of relief!

This year’s festival runs from the 16th – 24th October (Tika and Jamara then continue until the 29th).

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/


Cuban Revolution Day – Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs reflects on the importance of this commemorative day

The Cuban Revolution probably spawned some of the most iconic images of the 20th century. For a short time, back in the early years of the 1960s, against the backdrop of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara held centre stage whilst the world held its breathe and waited. Those days are long gone, but the images still remain and Cuba, Castro and Che continue to be a poignant reminder of a world that stood on the brink of social change and cold war paranoia.

Cuba’s Celebration of the National Rebellion is one of the most important dates on the revolutionary calendar. It commemorates the day in 1953 when Fidel Castro led a small group of rebels against the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack itself was an unmitigated failure and led to the arrest and imprisonment of Fidel and a number of his revolutionary compatriots. For many Cubans though, the date marked the beginning of Cuba’s long road towards revolution and reform. Indeed, such was the importance of the date that the army that eventually overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista was known as the 26 July Movement (M-26-7) and today this auspicious day is celebrated throughout the country with three days of festivities and rallies.

A showcase for Cuban national pride, it is a dazzling mix of patriotic fervour and carnival, with the country’s towns and cities being adorned with political banners and official graffiti. It is not unusual for crowds of 100,000 or more to hit the streets of Havana, the flag waving, dancing and live music adding to the carnival atmosphere. Meanwhile, at the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, the names of the martyrs of the revolution are read out to an accompanying fusillade of gunfire and singing. There are few countries in the world that can combine politics and partying with such relish, but the Cubans have a style and a passion all of their own. Here, revolution and rumba go hand in hand.

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/


Cuba Carnival – Trevor Gibbs writes about the biggest fiesta going down in Cuba

The ‘Pearl of the Antilles’, Cuba pulsates to the rhythms of its Latin and African origins. The land of the rumba and the salsa, this Caribbean jewel has been partying for centuries; since black slaves began holding dances to commemorate the festivals of Corpus Christi and Epiphany. Indeed, Carnival can justifiably be considered one of the island’s oldest traditions.

Until the late 1990s, Carnival was always held earlier in the year to coincide with its religious roots, a time when the Spanish overlords allowed their slaves a few days off to reproduce the songs and dances of their African homeland. For the past few years though the festival has moved to the summer months, when the streets of Havana and Santiago de Cuba explode in a riot of colour and comparsas (performing groups). The largest and most traditional of the carnival celebrations take place in Santiago, whilst in Havana there is music, dancing, outrageous costumes and fireworks, with parades running the length of the Malécon, Havana’s broad waterfront.

As well as the faroleros dancers and the hypnotic blend of traditional and contemporary music, the parades also include allegorical floats and the imposing presence of the Muñecones, huge satirical caricatures of well-known politicians and other famous people. Many of the groups that take part in the festival are drawn from the neighbourhoods of the Cuban capital and much community pride goes into their performances. Each year one day is also set aside specifically for children, with clowns and magicians joining the thronging masses.

For anyone who has never experienced Carnival before, it is a dazzling kaleidoscope of Cuban rhythm, dance and colour and every year spectators are invited to join in with the fun. For those looking to immerse themselves fully into Cuban culture, this visual treat is also a great time to experience a rich range of Cuban cuisine, with roasted pig (puerco asado), tamales and chicharritas on offer…all washed down with some cold Cuban beer or some of the island’s famous rum.

Dates for this year’s Carnival are from the 21-29 July in Santiago de Cuba and from the 3-10 August in Havana.

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Morocco’s Timitar Festival, a favourite of Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs

For more than 4,000 years, the Berbers ruled across the vast landscapes of North Africa. Long before the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century, their culture held sway across great swathes of the continent, stretching from the Atlantic coast to the banks of the Niger River. For centuries these ‘Lords of the Atlas’ spread their culture and customs across lands that extended from beyond the deserts of Western Egypt, to the shores of the Mediterranean. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the great Berber dynasties of the Almoravids and the Almohads even extended their power and control into large parts of Spain as well.

With the waning of Berber power and prestige however, these tribal customs fell into decline and Berber culture took a backwards step. Amongst the Arab elite this once proud race came to be considered inferior and their traditions, language and customs retreated into the safety of the imposing peaks of the High Atlas. In recent years though, this rich mix of cultural heritage has enjoyed an astonishing and colourful resurgence, due in no small part to the annual Timitar Festival.

Held in June or July each year, the festival has grown to become one of Africa’s premier music festivals, attracting performers and audiences from across the world to the bustling coastal resort of Agadir. Staged in three open-air venues, the festival is a dazzling fusion of traditional Berber music, modern jazz, hip hop and world renowned performers. Featuring over 40 different artists and attracting close to half a million spectators, the four day festival has become a showcase for Amazigh (Berber) culture in the heart of their traditional homeland.

Considered one of the largest music festivals in the country, this year is the festival’s ninth incarnation and it is expected to provide its audiences with more than 40 free concerts, performed by upwards of 400 artists from as far afield as Iraq, Colombia, Korea and the United States. What defines Timitar from other similar festivals though is its focus on Amazigh culture. Since its inception, it has strived to provide a stage for an event that has its roots firmly entrenched in Souss Massa Drâa tradition, whilst its outlook is most definitely looking towards the future. Add to that an opportunity to escape the oppressive summer heat of the Moroccan interior and a chance to enjoy some of the finest seafood on the Atlantic seaboard, and you have an event that provides a feast for body and soul.

This year’s Timitar Festival takes place from the 27th-30th June.

charity Challenge currently run 3 challenges based in Morcocco, The Sahara Desert Trek, Atlas Mountain Bike challenge and the High Atlas Summit Trek. If you want to learn more about our these challenges and much more, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/