Rio de Janeiro may not be capital of Brazil, but it's certainly the international capital of carnival, known around the planet for its beauty, its vivacity and its unmistakable sense of rhythm. The well-earned reputation is based on this popular festival whose origins are closely associated with African and Amerindian customs, a wild celebration that the people of Rio have taken to their hearts and made their own. It centres on the brilliantly colourful parades of the city's samba schools in the Sambadrome. The fantasy costumes, the imaginative floats, the unstoppable beat of the music and the tropical warmth and welcome combine to produce one of the greatest shows on earth. With Mardi Gras – 'Fat Tuesday' – falling on February 21st this year, the Rio carnival programme kicks off this weekend, and the city is already rocking.
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