This trip is as authentic as it gets, but it is not for everyone. You are living the nomadic life. It involves some long but spectacular days of 4x4 desert driving. Whilst in the desert you are staying in Tuareg camps, friends’ houses and camping out in the open desert - always of course with the essentials: food, water, fire, a mattress and a blanket, a vehicle and company. You don’t need anything else!
The From Here 2 Timbuktu Christmas mini festival
Local nomadic camps will be donating their tents and materials to create a beautiful arena. The robes and the voiles, the boys and the girls, the Tuareg and you will swing to electric guitar Saharan blues from the birthplace of the internationally renowned Tinariwen.
For each client attending the party I will donate €100 towards building a school for the children of the remote nomadic community who are hosting the party (see Supporting Schools).
We have the first stage completed, the school building. Once the school rooms are built the state supplies the teachers and fees are free, so hopefully this will be the beginning of new dawn for the children of this community.
The Tuareg or Kel Tamasheq
Deserts have always been my favourite landscape - the peace, the silence, the clarity of the air, the depth of the night sky and nomadic people, especially the Tuareg, have long held a mysterious fascination in my imagination.
The Tamasheq are the conduits of old of the Sahara with their caravans of camels and their blue-dyed skin, the Tuareg are a unique and fascinating people whose ancestors have been living the life as guardians of the desert for thousands of years to a time when the desert was savanna. They are the only people who want or know how to live in the desert. The Festival in the Desert was born out of a long tradition of Tuareg gatherings or parties in the desert where nomadic clans meet, eat, sing and dance to their sophisticated desert blues music.
How this trip emerged
After my second Festival in the Desert I wanted to discover more about the Tuareg. I wanted to see the people as they are, day to day. Always, that is the most enriching experience you can have in Africa.
In January 2008 I travelled off to the north of Mali, deep into the Sahara. I was looking for one of these Tuareg gatherings of which I’d heard so much - an authentic desert party.
In Gao, the gateway city to the desert, I met Sarid and his son Rhissa on the banks of the river Niger and we set off for their camp 500 kms north deep in the Sahara. They showed me seas of sand dunes amidst mountains of granite, bronze age rock paintings and ancient Tuareg graffiti; azure blue spring lakes above verdant oases. We slept wherever we liked beneath a thick ceiling of stars - a blanket, a mat, a fire to cook on, the hospitality of nomadic camps if need be - the bare essentials holding the key to a deep calm. We lunched in relatives’ camps, chased gazelle across open plains, spied jackals howling on mountain ridges at dawn.
As I was about to leave news came through that a 3 day party was about to take place - exactly what I was looking for. Three large leather tents adorned with Tuareg leather-work arranged in a semi-circle, around a dance floor of carpets. Women and men dressed to the nines in their colourful flowing robes dancing in the moonlight to a live, electric guitar and tam-tam band, playing Saharan rhythms deep into the night.
As Rhissa expertly drove us back across the desert for me to leave, Sarid was concerned as I stared out of the window entranced by my experience and the landscape: "Gaye, you say nothing, are you sad?"
I was sad to be leaving. But my silence was the result of an extraordinary happiness I felt so calm and more certain of my identity and my destiny than ever before.
A proud, humble, sophisticated people, gentle and resilient, the Tuareg had kept me with the hospitality and the security of a people who know their ancient land with deep roots like no others ever could.
I offer you Sarid and his son Rhissa as guides, Talla and her children, their camels, goats and sheep as our welfare and the people of Aguelhoc as hosts; our own authentic Tuareg party; a desert safari by 4x4s and camels, Timbuktu and The Festival of Camels.
Setting camp during the nomadic season