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The Independent Travel
22-24 February

Binche, Belgium

The Carnival de Binche is perhaps the biggest event of the year in Belgium and its March of the Gilles, one of the world's weirdest sights. For the march some 600 men dress exactly alike in wax masks with surrealist green sunglasses and thin moustaches and padded, striped costumes. They dance through the streets to an unrelenting drumbeat, throwing oranges to the crowd as they go. The tradition is said to stem from an Inca dance witnessed by the Spanish during the conquest.

24 February

Mutenguleni, Zambia

On this day in 1835, the Ngoni tribe crossed the Zambezi River in to what is now Zambia. Upon arrival they had a beer-drinking party of such magnitude that, to this day locals tell stories about it. The N'cwala ceremony gives thanks for this tribe's good fortune since then with a huge celebration. In addition to the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, dances are performed by the region's best dancers.

The high point of events comes when the chief tastes the year's first fresh produce, signalling that harvest can begin. This is followed by dancing, feasting and merrymaking which continues through the night.

28 February

Sydney, Australia (above)

This vibrant city is brought alive with its famous Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras street carnival (taking place, oddly, several days after Mardi Gras). Four weeks of exhibitions, performances and other events have paved the way for this extravagant parade down Oxford Street. Thousands will jostle on the packed pavements for the best positions from which to watch the amazing range of outlandish floats and outrageous costumes. For some, the celebrations will continue into the early hours of the morning at an all-night dance party.

27 February-22 March

Wellington, New Zealand

Festival fever will spread through Wellington as the curtain rises on the 17th New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. This bi-annual festival is the country's largest cultural event and is a showcase for New Zealand's best talents supported by a cast of international artists.

Entertainment ranging from opera and theatre to flying circus and Morris dancers, will be spilling on to the streets with a number of free performances to amaze and amuse passers by. For those who prefer their entertainment to be off the wall, alternative acts will be found taking place at all hours in Wellington's thriving cafes.

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