The festival in the desert is currently in exile due to the unrest in Mali. Many of the Malian artists that have performed at the festival will be a part of this global experience so keep an eye out for Mali bands coming throughout the globe. Official 'Festival Au Desert' website.
The Festival Au Desert, which started in 2001, takes place in the North of Mali, a few kilometers outside Timbuktu. It originally started in Essakane, in the very north of Mali deep in the Sahara desert, however due to the difficulty of this journey, and the safety of the region the organizers moved it to a more accessible site in 2010. This festival follow in the tradition of larger, traditional Tuareg Festivals like Takoubelt in Kidal and Temakannit in Timbuktu. These festival were strictly Tuareg and represented the time for nomadic Tuareg to get together and make decisions and exchange information among the many communities. These gathering were always festive in origin and were celebrated with song, dance, poetry and more.
Location of the Festival: Right Outside Timbuktu
The site of the festival is on the outskirts of Timbuktu.
Follow the road that goes into the dunes on the top left
side of the map above and there is the site of the
festival for the past 3 years...
Through the work of Essakane productions and Manny Ansar, the Festival is now open to the external world and welcomes artists from all over Africa, Europe and the rest of the World. During the three days of the festival some 30 artistic groups are invited from all around the World to perform. "It's one of the few honest things I have been part of in a long, long time. It's amazing to play out in the sand. There are no doors, no gates and no money. It reminded me of why I sang in the first place. It's not commercialized." Robert Plant (Rolling Stone/March 6, 2003)
The Touaregs, nomads from the south of the Sahara, have a longstanding tradition of coming together for annual meetings called Takoubelt in the Kidal region or Temakannit in the Timbuktu region. These meetings allowed them to reconnect with each other (after the nomadic season), have fun, resolve conflicts between individuals or groups and to exchange ideas about the challenges that they were facing at the moment. These encounters are what "Le Festival au Désert" is built upon.
The organization of the Festival, with its focus on combining modernity and tradition, is driven by a strong desire to open its doors to the outside world, while still preserving the cultures and traditions of the desert; for some this signifies being listened to and then recognized, for others it is a way to discover the desert through the inhabitants' values of hospitality and tolerance. In the beginning, the Festival was nomadic in its nature: the first Festival took place in Tin Essako in 2001 and then it moved to Tessalit in 2002 in the Kidal region (North-East Mali). However, after the 3rd year in 2003, when the Festival was held in Essakane close to Timbuktu, the organizers had to start envisioning a fixed location for the Festival in light of the enormous preparation required and the ever-growing public interest and attendants. It's in this way that we decided to make Essakane the permanent site of the Festival in order to begin building durable installations that could be used in the context of tourism promotion.
"Le Festival au Désert" is also a way to celebrate "La Flamme de la Paix" (The Flame of Peace), a name that was given to the ceremony where more than 3000 firearms were burned (and transformed into a monument) in 1996 in Timbuktu, putting a solemn end to the rebellion that, for years, shrouded northern Mali in gloom. Until today, this act still constitutes an example of how to manage conflicts, a model that ignites inspiration throughout the world. The major position that culture has taken in occidental economies prefigures the position that culture will have in the southern economies in a few years. Thus, "Le Festival au Désert" would like to become a factor in job creation in the near region, thereby promoting local development as well as bringing together the people of the earth.