Capital City: Lusaka
Zambia is in Southern Africa. Roughly the size of Texas or France, Zambia is a landlocked country, bordered by Tanzania to the northeast, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south, a narrow strip of Namibia known as the Caprivi Strip to the southwest, Angola to the west, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the northwest.
As can be seen even from the bizarre squashed-peanut shape of the country, Zambia is one of the stranger legacies of colonialism, agglomerating a large number of different tribes (73, according to the official count) and languages (20, plus dialects). Fortunately, with a long history of coexistence, significant migration around the country and similar Bantu-family languages, they all seem to get along pretty well and Zambia has been spared the violent intertribal strife that has decimated countries like Rwanda.
The Bemba are the largest group in Zambia, but they still form only about 20% of the population. The Bemba came from the Congo in the 16th century, and while their homelands are in the north and center of the country, many have immigrated to Lusaka and the Copperbelt.
The Chewa, Ngoni and Nsenga tribes, all found in the east of the country, share the Nyanja language and form Zambia's second largest grouping with about 15%.
The Tonga, Ila and Lenje, known together as the Bantu Botatwe (Three Peoples), are a close runner-up with 15% of the population, concentrated in the west of the country in the Zambezi Valley and the plateaus to the north.
The Lozi in the far west (6%) are known for their craftwork, particularly basketry, and for a low-key (non-violent) secessionist movement calling for an independendent Barotseland.
Other tribes in Zambia's patchwork include the Lala and Bisa (5%), the Kaonde (3%), the Mambwe and Lungu (3%), the Lunda (3%), the Lamba (2.5%) and the Luvale (2%), and 57 more. Despair not: the differences are not crucial for travelers, and locals will be happy to explain their traditions when needed, notably at festivals.
White Africans of English or Afrikaner descent(1.2%) are also visible, particularly in the more upscale areas of the major cities.
A highlight of any trip to Zambia is a visit to any of the many traditional festivals held throughout the country. Planning ahead can be tough though, as schedules are variable and not all are held yearly. Also, if you do manage to attend, bring along tolerance for heat, dust and crowds (increasingly drunk as the evening wears on) and patience for endless speeches by local functionaries like the Assistent Vice-Secretary for Fertilizer Co-operatives in Rutungu Sub-Province. On the plus side, any foreigners attending can usually sneak into the VIP stands, although you may get hassled for photo permits.
Kazanga, Kaoma [Central Western Zambia] (June - August). The Kazanga ceremony is considered Zambia's oldest traditional ceremony having been celebrated by the Nkoya people for over 500 years. The ceremony celebrates and maintains Nkoya traditions of music, dance and many other ancient practices.
Kuomboka, Lealui/Limulunga (Western Province, around Easter (March-April). The most famous of Zambia's festivals, this is the ceremonial migration of the Lozi king (litunga) from his dry season abode at Lealui to his wet season palace at Limulunga. Wearing an elaborate Victorian ambassador's costume, the litunga is taken by a flotilla of barges down the river, with musical accompaniment and, of course, much feasting at the destination.
Ncwala, near Chipata, 24 February. A Ngoni festival to celebrate the first fruit of the season, where the Ngoni chief ceremonially tastes the fruit of the land, then spears a bull and drinks its blood.
Kulamba, near Chipata, August. A Chewa thanksgiving festival known for its Nyau secret society dancers.
Likumbi Lya Mize (August)
This is a popular August festival(The Day of Mize). This ceremony takes place at Mize, the official palace of Senior Chief Ndungu, about seven kilometres west of Zambez Boma. People of the Luvale tribe gather to celebrate their cultural heritage , bringing displays of all types of handicrafts and spicing the event with traditional singing and dancing while the chief holds court. Mize is the official palace of Senior Chief Ndungu. The Makishi dancers recreate famous events from Luvale mythology, and local artists display their work.
Livingstone Cultural & Arts Festival This was first held in 1994, this festival bring the traditional rulers from all the provinces of Zambia and visitors are also allowed with the knowledge of their culture in their tribe. This festival capture musicians, artist, poets, and dramatist.
Shimunenga is a ceremony to show devotion to ancestors. The ceremony takes place on a full moon on weekends in September and October. The Ba-lla tribe celebrate this ceremony at Malla on the Kafue Flats.
Umutomboko ceremony of the Lunda people in Luapula Province is held at Mwansabombwe to depict the coming to Zambia by the Lunda and Luba people from Kola in now Congo DR.The ceremony is held in July and is graced by Mwata Kazembe who performs a dance to commemorate the occasion.
If you look at a map, Zambia appears to be squarely in the tropics, but thanks to its landlocked and elevated position it does have distinct seasons that run as follows:
Dry season — May to August. The coolest time of the year, with temperatures 24-28°C during the day, can drop as low as 7°C at night. Probably the best time of year to visit Zambia: come early in the dry season for birdwatching or to see Vic Falls at their biggest, or later when the bush has dried up for good game-spotting on safari.
Hot season — September to November. Temperatures rocket up to a scorching 38-42°C and clouds of swirling dust make driving on dirt roads an asthmatic's nightmare. If you can take the heat, though, it's a good time for safaris as wildlife clusters around the few remaining watering holes.
Wet season — December to April. Temperatures cool down to 32°C or so and, true to the name, there is a lot of rain — sometimes just an hour or two, sometimes for days on end. Unsealed roads become impassable muddy nightmares, and many safari lodges close.
All temperatures above are given for the lowland valleys that house most of Zambia's population and national parks. If you're heading up to the plateaus, temperatures will be around 5°C lower.