All photos on this page are courtesy of tOine, the official photographer of the 2010 edition of the Festival in the Desert.
Photos of our 2006 Desert Festival tour, click here (thanks to Steve Hecht and Dori Smith).
Read a travelogue of the
2006 Desert Festival Tour
Festival in the Desert
Tours to Mali's Festival au Desert, plus Timbuktu, Dogon country, Djenne, Mopti and the Niger River
The 2012 Festival in the Desert was a success !
Join us next time —
Rendezvous: Festival au Désert !
Word cloud (click to enlarge)
The Festival in the Desert
(le Festival au Désert) is a celebration of Tuareg culture, featuring traditional Tuareg music and world music.
The Festival in the Desert is a unique event modeled on traditional gatherings and celebrations of the nomadic Tuareg people, the "Blue Men of the Desert", when families and clans come together and celebrate with traditional songs, dances, and demonstrations of manly prowess and female beauty.
The most remote festival in the world, Mali's Festival au Désert was held for the first time in 2001. In 2003 and for several subsequent years, the Festival was held in the Tuareg hamlet Essakane. For security reasons and to accommodate the ever-growing crowds, especially in the year of Mali's 50th independance, in 2010 it was moved to Timbuktu. Today the Festival is a showcase of Tuareg culture, and an oppourtunity to promote world peace. Some 30 musical groups from around the world are invited each year to perform during the three-day festival.
This is an opportunity to meet the Tuareg people hosting and attending the festival. The day-time festivities include traditional Tuareg music, singing, dancing, poetry, ritual swordplay, camel races and artisans' exhibits. The on-stage world-music concerts are held at night, with the lights and sound system powered by electrical generators.
Desert Festival Logistics
• Tour transportation is by 4x4 vehicles.
• On-site accommodations consist of traditional Tuareg tents and ground mats.
• Hot meals, bottled water and other beverages are available on-site.
• There is no running water, but latrines and bucket-showers are available.
• Desert temperatures in January are hot during the day (~35 C / 100 F), but it can be quite cold at night (~5 C / 40 F) — campersmustbringsleeping bags !
This is not a luxury holiday, but a unique cultural travel experience that requires adapting to local conditions.
See photos of the 2011 edition of the Festial in the Desert.
Bono at the 2012 Festival in the Desert
Our Tours : (Tentative)
11-day Full basic tour
7 nights hotel / 3 nights camping
14-days, with Sailing to Timbuktu
6 nights hotel / 7 nights camping
15-day Expanded Tour
14 nights hotel / no camping
Festival tickets to be purchased on the Festival website, or at the Festival entry.
Saga Tours does not handle festival tickets, international air reservations or visas.
Mali's entry requirements:
Yellow Fever immunization
Malaria prophylaxis is recommended; consult your physician.
NB: Five-day entry visas are available upon arrival at Bamako airport; these must be extended to standard 30-day visas, in Mopti or in Timbuktu. Saga Tours does not handle entry visas or visa extensions.
See our Travel Tips page for Mali Embassy contact information, to apply for your Mali visa prior to travel.
***We recommend obtaining visas prior to travel whenever possible, to avoid possibly being denied flight boarding by the airline, on the flight to Bamako.
Festival tour requirements:
a sleeping bag
soft luggage, such as a duffel bag; hard suitcases are not appropriate
summer clothing for days; a warm outfit for the desert nights; see our Travel Tips page for a suggested packing list.
Airlines flying to Bamako, MALI:
(via Dakar) Air Mali (via Abidjan) Air Ivoire (via Nouakchott) Air Mauritanie (via Casablanca) Royal Air Maroc
(via Paris) Air France (via Barcelona) TAP Airways (via Brussels) Brussels Airlines
(via Algiers) Air Algerie (via Addis Ababa) Ethiopian Airways (via Nairobi, Dakar) Kenya Airways
2011 Festival Travellers Comments:
"A brief note to say how much I miss the cocoon of your tour with its friendly and helpful atmosphere with super fellow travellers and terrific staff. Thank you very much for the brilliant if brief taste/view of Mali, and for taking such good care of us. A lifetime's curiosity fulfilled in just a few days.... I am very grateful. -G.T. (U.K.)
"Saga Tours is organized very well, every place where we went it was very good, especially the people. We're very happy to be here in Mali with Assou and his Agency. Thank you so much for everything. -S.T. (Italy)
I was surprised at how well we were all cared for. I will never forget this trip and will recommend Saga Tours. Thank yuou so much. The festival set-up was very well organized and the food was wonderful. Our Tuareg guide Moussa was incredible and a great teacher and a lovely person. Everyone who worked for Saga Tours was so helpful. Thanks ! -J.D.(U.S.)
The Festival in the Desert Tuareg culture and international music !