Ingall (pop. est. 5000) is a big village in the sands of the desert, around where, just after the raining season, salty grounds and pools supply livestock with healthy minerals.
This salt is reason for many hundreds of nomadic Fulani and Tuareg herders with ten thousands of cattle, that migrate south during the dry season as far as Nigeria, to gather around here. After the raining season (usually in the last 2 weeks of September), they celebrate their return in a big way, the Cure Salee Festival!
The official festival lasts for three days, but locally, in settlements scattered all round the region, celebrations sometimes continue for weeks.
A fee is charged to tour operators, but did not apply to individual travellers, who had the same privileges as group members (being allowed to enter the arena and sit along with the invited guests in a covered spectators area)
During the official Festival there were several music performances, varying from a couple of chanting women sitting in a circle to groups of men making music on traditional instruments.
The traditional Tuareg songs that I heard so many of during my past travelling and that I loved so much, missed. Perhaps the words of these warrior songs did not suit the delegations of Government, including Ministers.
The music came along with a lot of dancing as well, both men and women wearing their finest costumes and showing their best moves.
In general, I thought these performances lacked a bit of enthusiasm and cheer, and looked like obliged sessions for officials and tourists. The real dancing and party started in the evenings, when both groups were gone. I didn?t check it out, thought it was better that way.
My first day in Ingall (which was the second day of the Festival) started with a great camel parade.
As you can imagine, the camels parading in the Arena were fabulously decorated and the very best of their kind! They did tricks like ?walking on the knees?, but were mostly to be admired, showing health, strength and beauty.
It goes without saying that the same applied for their drivers!
A very important part of the Festival are the beauty contests, consisting of several stages.
While for the Tuaregs it are the women who adorn themselves and present them to the men, for the Fulani it are the men who dress up and compete for being the most beautiful. The climax of all comes on the last festival night, when the winners are announced.
At the pictures you see the winning boys (notice how it was almost impossible to keep the lens dust free!)
One of the highlights of the Festival is the Fulani ceremony called Gerewol.
The young men paint their faces and decorate themselves extensively hoping to attract the young women looking for marriage.
During the ceremony they line up with a few dozen at a time and start dancing, which involves not much action however. The guys move up and down on their toes in a very controlled way, swaying the arms in front, all in slow motion.
They present a big smile on their faces, showing their white teeth sharply contrasting with their black painted lips, and produce a chanting noise which cannot be called singing.
I was not introduced in the background and did not understand really what I saw, but still highly enjoyed these remarkable happenings!
On the last day of the Festival, the finish of the camel race was one of the most memorable events.
The circle of spectators opened up and after some time huge clouds of dusts appeared, as if a sandstorm was approaching us. The specially prepared racing camels were driven by young boys, to keep the burden light.
It was not the winner that attracted all attention, but the runner up, a very little boy arriving alone on the unsaddled camel. He was completely exhausted, had to be lifted off the animal and sat down on in the sand for a short while, totally bewildered and disappointed. That little boy stole everyones heart; he was offered piles of money by high ranking governors, ambassadors and others in the audience and received big applause!
The Cure Salee Festival is attended by a mix of people in numbers that you unlikely will encounter anywhere else on earth!
Just being there was to me the biggest attraction!
Most of them are of Tuareg and Fulani tribes, all dressed up at their finest, carrying swords, and wearing exuberant clothes and make up; women carrying an enormous bunch of hair.
Actually for making contact it is much better to spend time in Ingall village and wander around there at night. On the Festival terrain many of the foreign (group-) tourists behaved so shameless and without any respect (camerawise) that there probably will not grow much mutual understanding;
> Hi Bonobo,
> If you ask and look for informations it seems as there is THE cure salee
> festival (gerewol) in THAT place during THAT period. But I've always
> thought that it's impossibile they all meet in one determined place. there should be many places in that area, where the different tribes
> meet in a spontaneous way...
> Can you tell me which is the truth?
> I'd like to go without a tourist agency but I think it'll be difficult
> to find the places, to stay there during the whole celebration and to
> move from one location to another to follow the different
There is one big 3-day "official" Cure Salee festival
in Ingal, which is "easy" to reach. This is a big thing, broadcasted on TV and
attended by all sorts of "VIPS" from Government and their international guests
but very much a scheduled program and stripped from spontaneous
behaviour. This changes at night at the camps, but if you're not invited you
likely would feel uncomfortable, since foreigners behave very inpolite in
daytime with their cameras and generally have not a good reputation. "Gerewol" is a ceremony/parade that is performed during Cure Salee but
just as a part of it. Generally this is regarded as the highlight of the
Besides the official festival, the happening is found in various other
places on a much smaller scale but authentic. These places are
normally impossible to reach without a 4WD and the chance of hiring one on the
spot in Ingal is very small. So most visitors with limited time come in a hired
or owned 4WD and guide from Agadez if they want to see more than just the
official festival. I didn't bother to go beyond Ingal, because even if I could
have afforded the 4WD I felt arriving in a remote settlement in such obvious
luxury would not have contributed to any mutual understanding. I have met one or
two foreign travellers with lots of time and at least one local contact who
traveled by camel, which is of course THE perfect way to get around the region!