We don't know much about the origin of the Zambo Carnival, celebrated on the streets of Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli, or how it started.

What we do know is that it involves lots of costumes, masks and painted bodies. 

The street parade takes place every year on the last day that precedes the Lenten season, a period of fasting for Christians around the world. It celebrates the last period of excess.

Zambo Carnival is a much smaller version of the yearly Brazilian Rio de Janeiro Carnival

Revelers in disguise chant “Zambo Zambo” as they parade through the streets. 

As in most Lebanese traditions, the darbuka, drums and pipes are involved. Alcohol too. 

It's a Mardi Gras of sorts

Some call it the Mardi Gras of Lebanon. Others speculate the festival dates back to the days of the French mandate “when Senegalese soldiers started it.” 

Alternatively, some think the tradition, which stretches back over a century, may have started when an emigrant to Brazil returned to his native city, bringing the carnival with him. 

The Sunday before lent is followed by Ash Monday. In some of the photos, we see faces smeared in what appears to resemble charcoal.

Journalists flock to catch the parade's most striking costumes

At the day's end, the cheerful celebrants take a dip in the cold sea at Mina Beach, in a ritual symbolizing baptism