The setting of the Essakane festival in the middle of the white sanddunes is perfect for a camel ride into the desert. So several times I saw people going in or coming out of the desert (picture 1) on a camelback.I love camels and made camelrides on several occasions, even a three days trip in the white desert in Egypt and a camel race in Maralal...more
In the afternoon from 5 pm till about 7 pm at a stage in the wonderful setting of the white sand dunes there were lots of performances of local and traditional groups (picture 1, 2 & 4). The singing was sometimes very mysterious, there were local dances and fighting scenes. At both sides of the stage the audience could sit at the dunes for a good...more
For lunch, dinner of a drink I went to a small restaurant just north of the artisan market. You could sit here outdoors in the shade. There were a few chairs and a couple of benches in front of the small white building (picture 1). The place was frequented by many of the visitors. The meals were basic, but good. You could choose for a vegetarian meal or a meal with meat. There was rice, couscous or pasta.
Besides the mainstage was the huge restaurant tent of Cheche tours (picture 2). Here I took my breakfast. The people who had the meals included in their tour came here for all their meals. In the night the tent served as nightclub with a big variety in alcoholic drinks and swinging music.
Strolling around in the festival area I saw several places where they prepared food in huge pots (picture 3), roasted huge pieces of meat (picture 4) or supplied fresh goat meat (picture 5).
Favorite Dish: I prefered the vegetarian meal with couscous.
African sunsets, full moon and thousand stars, what more do you need? Sunsets in Africa and in the desert are often spectacular. The sanddunes and the camels in Essakane were the perfect setting for the sunset (picture 1,2 & 3). The full moon (picture 4) made it even more special. Listening to the African music (picture 5) close to the warm...more
In the evening from 8 pm till about 2 am you could see and hear the great performances at the mainstage. Every time it was a big surprise which artists would show up. The well known Tuareg group Tinerawen announced in the program at internet didn't show up. Also Zap Mama from Belgium announced in the leaflet at the festival didn't show up. But in...more
We planned to leave from Timbuktu for the festival at 10 am, but the evening before we heard we should leave first at 2 pm in the second convoy of 4x4's of the tour agency. I was not unhappy about that, so we got the possibility to visit the old town of Timbuktu in the morning.
At 2 pm there were no 4WD cars yet. After more than one hour we heard the cars were on their way back from Essakane to Timbuktu to pick us up. After still another hour it turned out the cars broke down in the desert. So our tour agency had to arrange 4 other 4x4's in town at a moment every vehicle which could ride was on its way to Essakane. Finally at 4.30 pm we could leave for the festival.
I was in the front car. First we had to take the unpaved road in the direction of Goundam (picture 1). About 35 km from Goundam we had to turn off northbound and take the sandy track further into the desert (picture 2). There we found out that only 3 of the 4 cars arrived at the point of the turnoff. The policemen at the checkpoint told the drivers there was something with the 4th car. We waited some time to get more news (picture 3). Then the drivers decided that the third car should go back to see what's up.
We continued with only two cars into the desert. We had a fabulous sunset en route and arrived first in the festival area in the dark. In the meantime we had heard by mobile phone that the 4th car had an accident. Luckily nobody was hurt and another car was on its way to pick up our fellow travellers of that crashed car.
It took some time before we found our camp, because the driver and we didn't know exactly the name or place of our camp. The guide who knew was in one of the other cars. While our driver tried to make a short-cut, our car got stuck in the soft dunes. So it took another hour before we finally reached the place where we were supposed to put up our tents.
At the moment we had installed our camp and all the tents for everybody around 9.30 pm also the last two cars arrived. Time for dinner, dance and music !
In the central part of the festival area was an artisan market with many small stalls. Here you could look for Tuareg jewellery, the tagelmust or veil in indigo or other colours, colourful blankets and cloth, but also for cd's of Ali Farka Toure, Tinerawen, Habib Koite and other Malina musicians. There was also a bookstall. And don't forget to bargain about the price. It's part of the game.
Some sellers walked around the campsites and stages trying to sell their jewellery and blankets.
What to buy: I bought a book about the culture of the Tuareg people and four silver rings. I got a pair of earrings as present.
Don't worry if the evenings and nights in the desert are more chilly than you expected. In that case buy one or two of the colourful local cloths or blankets.
The Festival au Desert in Essakane is originally a Tuareg festival where several clans from the region meet each other. At the 9th festival in 2009 also the Tuareg clans gathered and many came with their camels. I could still feel the spirit of the proud 'the masters of the desert', looking at the Tuareg men sitting on their camels with colourful...more
Tuareg men veil traditionally their face (picture 1, 2 & 3). Their veil is called tagelmust. It is a good protection against the harsh desert sands, but it is also meant to give protection against evil spirits. Most of the Tuareg men wear indigo robes and turbans. A Tuareg man from Timia in Niger told me once because the indigo keeps the scorpions...more
At the festival in Essakane I was invited by Mohamed Alher to drink tea with him. So I did several times. He told me he is an artisan, who repairs old manuscripts at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu. When I was back home it was a big surprise that I found two huge full colour pictures of him in the book 'The hidden treasures of Timbuktu', which...more
Nothing to become paranoid, but in the desert... they exist.
In the Occidental mind, black scorpions are supposed to be dangerous when white or sandy ones are not.
This is a stupid legend and the reality is just the opposite: in Sahara, bites of black scorpions are very painful but usually not dangerous. Bites of white scorpions are less painful but very dangerous... especially bites of the species (Androctonus amoreuxii) you can see on this (bad) picture.
How to avoid nasty experiences:
Don't grope around in bushes or holes or under stones;
In the morning, never jump into your shoes without having checked that "nobody" is already inside;
Never let a suitcase, sleeping bag, etc... open;
If you sleep on a mat, be careful when you move it away: a scorpion could be under it.
If you are bitten:
The very first (and difficult) thing is to keep quiet: don't start jumping around, it would accelerate the effect of the poison;
If you are far from everything, just lie on the ground in a shady place and wait... Quietly...! Try to sleep. After 3 hours you should know whether you'll survive or not;
Don't try to open the bite and suck blood: irritation usually accelerates the diffusion of the poison in the body;
If it's possible (rare because scorpions are usually not in cities!), go and see a doctor or go in a clinic if there is one around there. Don't forget to take the scorpion (dead of course!) with you: every species has it' own poison and needs its own antidote. F...g animals!
Again, don't become paranoid: dangerous scorpions are quite rare. Furthermore, you'll probably never meet one if you're travelling in wintertime: they are hibernating.
In the centre of the festival area was a huge tent, the forum. In this place there were several conferences between 9 am and 1 pm. I suppose on several subjects like cultural, political and social ones. The talks were all in the french language as far as I know.
I visited this place two times. At the first time there was an international press conference (picture 5). I saw reporters and photographers from many western countries. The second time I came the conference was almost finished. The participants just got ready for some questions of the press (picture 4) and some 'official' pictures (picture 1, 2 & 3).