Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) presents the annual Festival of the Dhow Countries during the first two weeks of July. The festival celebrates the arts and cultures of the African continent, the Gulf States, Iran, India, Pakistan and the islands of the Indian Ocean, collectively known as the Dhow countries. The centre piece of the festival is a film programme consisting of both competition and non-competition screenings. Fiction and documentary film and video productions compete for Golden and Silver Dhow Awards.

While competition films are limited to productions with Dhow country connections, the festival programme includes films/videos from all over the world addressing themes which reflect concerns within the Dhow countries. Activities and events include music, theatre and dance performances, workshops and exhibitions. A large music programme also runs for the festival featuring artists from Tanzania alongside international musician. Many of these events are staged in Old Fort (Ngome Kongwe) and Forodhani Gardens and free to the public. There are also workshops and seminars for women and children, and Village Panoramas which reach about forty villages across the Zanzibar islands of Unguja and Pemba.