A festival is a feast - religious in origin but these days not always; at times quirky, colorful or extreme. There are thousands of festivals around the world, most of them small, community affairs. But a few transcend their roots and some even go global, becoming a once in a lifetime, not to be missed experience for every woman who considers herself a traveler.

So before you hit the road - check on the festivals! You wouldn't want to miss a great one...

Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #21

A World of Festivals

What makes for a great festival, one worth traveling around the world to attend? Size, certainly, and length. A festival that lasts an hour or two might not be worth the plane ride. Another defining point might be its meaning, its religious significance or cultural importance. And color and culture - music, dance, art, light. It could also be outlandishness or originality - some festivals are like no other.

I've attended my share of festivals, and I've included some of those I've liked. I've also listed festivals that are famous, that struck my fancy or that I thought you might like. There are plenty more I didn't include - or I'd have to write for a month! If you have a favorite festival, please send it (or them) to me by replying to this email. I'll eventually write a web page about festivals and I'll make sure I include your suggestions.

So here goes my list:


  • Ati-Atihan Festival - a mixture of folklore, religion and dancing on the Philippine island of Panay


  • Rio Carnival - an originally religious but now euphoric event - the biggest is in Rio but plenty of others take place across Brazil and the rest of South America
  • Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, and beyond, when New Orleans erupts into its own carnival (and the city sure would appreciate your visit!)
  • Venice Carnival - with similar religious roots as the Rio Carnival and Mardi Gras; some 800 years old, and its most distinguishing feature is the carnival mask everyone wears
  • Holi Festival - a colorful celebration of good over bad, a happy time of gift-giving and joy


  • St Patrick's Day - 17 March each year, Ireland's national holiday is celebrated worldwide with parades, the wearing of green, and sometimes even the dyeing (of rivers and lakes) in green
  • Las Fallas de Valencia - a five-day effigy burning and pyrotechnic extravaganza in the otherwise quiet Spanish coastal town of Valencia


  • Songkran Festival of Water - a celebration of Thai new year and in the northern city of Chieng Mai, it turns into possibly the biggest water fight in the world




  • Roswell UFO Festival - now this is a bit different, if you want something out of this world
  • Palio of Siena - the first of two horse races (the second is in August) - the race only lasts two minutes but the festivities go on for days
  • Calgary Stampede - popular century-old rodeo, the biggest in the world
  • San Fermin - better known as the Running of the Bulls (and at times a deadly festival, with casualties this year and increasingly controversial about animal rights)



  • Fantasy Fest - celebrate Halloween differently in Key West, Florida
  • Oktoberfest - it's all about beer, in Munich, Germany (and it actually starts in September!)


  • Diwali - five days of Hindu happiness across India

Throughout the year

  • Gay Pride - lesbians (and their friends) celebrate pride in their sexual identity; in North America and Europe, many events are in June, and in Sydney and Cape Town, in February - and there are plenty of events throughout the year
  • Full Moon Party - possibly the No. 1 beach party in the world, on the Thai island of Koh Phangan

Too big? Too tame? Too showy? Here are a few more offbeat events you might sample if you're in the neighborhood.

And then there's the Escalade in Geneva, the Water and Moon Festival in Siem Reap, the Mobile Phone Throwing championships in Finland...

Still not enough? Perhaps a visit to a specialized site like festivals.com might be in order.

What's New This Month on Women on the Road, the Website

My Kugelhopf
An interview with award-winning Kerrin Rousset - traveler and food blogger extraordinaire

Coping with Culture Shock
Travel pushes us out of our comfort zone and sometimes new things are hard to accept. But that's what travel is about, isn't it?

Travel News From Across the Web

Dervla Murphy: The 10 Best Ways to Travel

63 European Destinations Off the Beaten Path

Etiquette 101: The Mediterranean

Tourist Traps that are Worth It

13 Additions to the Unesco World Heritage List

Lost Cities of the World

Airline Passengers' Top 10 Peeves

For art lovers...

The Murals of Valparaiso

...and food lovers

Food on the Fly: The Best Airport Restaurants

7 Great Places to Eat in Brussels

Six Cups: Tea Cultures Around the World

Berlin Eats: 9 Ways to Surpass Schnitzel

Destination Travel

8 Fascinating Things You May Not Know About Thailand

Uluru: To Climb or Not To Climb?

Jeddah: Essential Travel Guide

Greece: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

Barcelona Minus La Rambla

Kathmandu's 4 Top Attractions

And finally...

Paying to Murder: Russian Yachts Offer Pirate Hunting Cruises

The viral sensation of the year...: United Breaks Guitars

Cause of the Month

Freedom of Clothing? When Wearing Trousers Can Land You in Jail

A female Sudanese journalist was arrested recently along with more than a dozen friends for wearing trousers considered too tight and therefore indecent and in violation of Sudanese Shariah law.

Potential punishment: 40 lashes.

Several of the women were released, while others apparently got the lashes. But Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein is fighting back by publicizing the case and inviting friends and allies to her trial and eventual public flogging (she fully expects to be found guilty as she will not be allowed to defend herself). Still, she has managed to turn what authorities thought was a local matter into an international cause celebre.

She has apparently been offered several compromises, including a full pardon or a request that she refrain from similar clothing in exchange for her release. Her trial, which started last week, has been adjourned until today, 4 August. Her immunity as a UN employee prevented her from being tried so she quit her job so the trial could go ahead.

In addition to working on a Sudanese newspaper, Lubna worked in media at the UN mission in Sudan. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out against the arrests, expressing his 'deep concern'.

It's no secret she's been critical of the government's conservative stances (Northern Sudan is Islamic) against women and some feel her arrest may have been retaliation against her outspokenness.

For more information on Lubna's plight and to do something about it, have a look at some of the following:
Sudan Watch
Arab media reports
Robert Fulford's column

Arab Network for Human Rights Information
Stop Stoning Campaign

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Women Travelers, Adventuresses and Trailblazers

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Happy travels! Leyla