Mali's Festival au Desert Kicks Off New Year With Rhythmic Beat

2257081235_c7c751b46bThis New Year, why not make it your resolution to become a travel philanthropist–and have a fantastic journey at the same time? Elevate Destinations, a sustainable and green travel outfit that gives  a percentage of every trip to a designated non-profit in host countries, is planning a unique journey to Timbuktu from January 2-14, 2010 to attend Mali’s Festival au Desert–the world’s most remote music festival. The Cambridge, MA-based company’s 13-day Desert Music Tour includes 3 days at this Afro-pop musical extravaganza hosted by the Tuareg–the traditionally nomadic “blue men” of the Sahara. Festivals have always been a part of the Tuareg’s nomadic lifestyle–they provide a time to race camels, stage sword fights, settle scores, make policy and play music. The festival features musicians from Mali, Mauritania, Niger and many other countries worldwide. This is Africa’s version of Woodstock, Coachella and Burning Man all combined into one entrancing spectacle, and an experience not to be missed.

Festival au Desert MusicianIf embarking on a remote journey such as this seems enticing, but a bit overwhelming, then Elevate Destinations is the way to go. Every trip benefits environmental preservation and community development and is led by a committed team specially selected for their ability, knowledge and integrity. They handle all the logistics, meals and accommodations, as well as provide an English-speaking guide for the entire trip. The Desert Music Tour begins in a private pirogue (a small, flat-bottomed boat) sailing up the Niger River, where fellow travelers will get a chance to observe the varied birdlife along the shore, river hippos, and explore rural villages with beautiful mosques such as those found in Djenne (a World Heritage site) in the Dogon Country. Guests will also get to spend a night in Timbuktu before heading to their campsite in Essakane, where the festivities begin. This year’s line-up includes Amadou & Mariam, Vieux Farka Touré, Leni Stern Band (USA, Maroc, Sénégal), Harper Simon (USA), Dady Dasty (Martinique) and The Sway Machinery (USA) to name a few, as well as local artists and a few last-minute surprise guests.

The Desert Music Tour will be donating to the Fabric of Life–an international economic development foundation whose primary purpose is to support cooperative and micro-finance activities that improve the quality of life for poor families and their communities. What better way to bring in the New Year than sitting under a canopy of stars, swaying to global rhythms played by magical musicians? Sure beats singing Auld Lang Syne in the colonies!

Festival au Desert, Mali

For more information about this trip and other opportunities, go to: www.elevatedestinations.com. Check out Festival au Desert videos to get a feel for this hypnotic event.

Price: US$4500 p/person. Cost does not include international airfare to/from Bamako, Mali visas, non-specified meals, drinks/bottled water, tips, personal expenses and sleeping bags.

For some great imagery of the region, check out our slideshow by photographer Dorit Thies at The Road to Timbuktu. To learn about another worthy project to assist the women and children of Mali, check out the Mali Fala Fund.

Latest posts by Kate Ayrton

1 Comment

  1. Jenny Acheson on November 22, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Hi there Kate,
    How are you??? It’s been a long time since we connected. Hope you are doing well.
    Tim sent me the link to this page about the Festival au Desert. I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to Mali this January – really amazing. My boyfriend and I did it just as independent travelers and it was all fine, hiring drivers, joining an inexpensive tour to get to Essakane, camping out in canvas tents that the Tuareg rent out, and taking a boat trip to Mopti. Amazing time anyway. I have quite a few pics of the festival in the new Bradt guide book to Mali and a few on my website if you have a min to check out.
    Are you going yourself this year or perhaps you have already been? Lots of love Jen

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