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Festival in the Desert

Tours to Mali's Festival au Désert, 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 !

The Festival in the Desert (le Festival au Désert) is a Tuareg culture festival 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 are prepared on-site. Bottled water and other beverages are also available.

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)
travellers must bring sleeping bags !

This is not a luxury holiday, but a unique cultural travel experience that requires adapting to local conditions.

2013 Desert Festival group tours: (Tentative)

11-day Full Basic group tour
7 nights hotel / 3 nights camping

 14-days, with Sailing to Timbuktu (group tour)
6 nights hotel / 7 nights camping

15-day Expanded group tour
14 nights hotel / no camping

Mali's entry requirements:
  1. tourism visa
  2. 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:
  1. a sleeping bag
  2. soft luggage, such as a duffel bag; hard suitcases are not appropriate
  3. summer clothing for days; a warm outfit for the desert nights; see our Travel Tips page for a suggested packing list.

Sorry, Saga Tours does not handle visas, Festival tickets, international air reservations or air tickets.