Festival of Sahara
For over 100 years the International Festival of the Sahara has proven that even the desert can be conquered, if for only a little while. The festival is the largest and most well known in the country of Tunisia, and attracts visitors from around the world.
Imagine being surrounded by desert on almost all sides. The long rolling hills of desert sand seems to be practically endless, until suddenly you hear Western style techno music. Someone is having a party! As you arrive. Among the caravans of camels and mud-brick buildings, you see people dancing and singing along to different melodies. People dressed in stereotypical hippie garb mingle with locals who are dressed in relatively conservative Arab-Islamic outfits. You think you have just arrived in the twilight one.
The International Festival of the Sahara began in 1910 when the country of Tunisia was under the rule of the French. However, the festival's modern form was adopted in 1967 when Tunisia was under the rule of Habib Bourguiba, the country's first president. The goal of the festival was to help make people aware of the nomadic way of life. The festival now draws thousands of people per year.
The Festival of the Sahara is held every December, for four days. The festival is marked by an opening ceremony, which is then followed by the main events. These event are held in the H'naiech stadium. Interestingly, during the festival the stadium is surrounded by the tents of Bedouin tribes. The festival features many attractive events, such as camel and horse races, marriages among the Bedouin people, and even rabbit hunting featuring the sloughi, or desert hunting dogs.
The event is attended by many people from Tunisia, and the surrounding areas. In recent years the festival has been attended by more Westerners than before, and the influence of Western styles cannot be denied. For example, many DJs playing techno style music can be found on the festival grounds. Music and the art are very important to the festival. For example, visiting musicians and poets perform during the nights of the festival.
The Festival of the Sahara has a long and storied history. It has helped bring some attention by Westerners to the Bedouin way of life, exactly as president Habib Bourguiba had hoped. It has also had the effect of exposing the Bedouin people to some aspects of Western life. For those who are adventurous, this festival would be a good way to do something unique, and truly off the beaten path.