Essakane, scenes from the Sahara

It is cold in the desert at night. Very, very cold. As soon as the sun set, which it does with alarming speed, the temperature plunged, forcing everyone to start adding layers of clothing. Lying in my sleeping bag in a Tuareg tent just before dawn, it was all I could do to convince myself to scramble out of the bag and into some warm clothes, before wandering out into the desert to admire the sunrise and welcome the returning warmth of another day.

Every photographer knows that the light in the early morning and as the sun sets is special. In the desert this seems to be doubly so, with sand dunes and vast open sky proving to be a perfect canvass for the sun to work its magic. Here are some pictures in the Sahara from the Festival au Désert to illustrate this. Sunset…

Woman and her son with camel at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Woman and her son with camel at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camels at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camels at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camels at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camels at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camels at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camels at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Two people sit in the desert at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Two people sit in the desert at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

A man walks across he desert at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

A man walks across he desert at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camel at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Tuareg and camel at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

…followed by the cold desert night…

Moon over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Moon over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Moon over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Moon over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Moon over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Moon over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Campfire in the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Campfire in the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

…followed by the sunrise…

Sunrise over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Sunrise over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Sunrise over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Sunrise over the desert, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Sand dunes, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

Sand dunes, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

A man prays on a sand dune, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

A man prays on a sand dune, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

15 thoughts on “Essakane, scenes from the Sahara

  1. Just loved this! Have always wanted to visit the Sahara. It seems like a different world…. The extreme temperature differences would be crazy! Love the pictures – especially of of the natives in turbans. Oh, to be a world traveler… Great post!

  2. Wow, fantastic stuff, super pictures. I’m very jealous, wanted to get there for several years now and hope to one day soon. But good to see people can still go visit Mali, ‘have to admit i thought it was still too dangerous. Great pictures and super post, thanks for sharing. Looking forward to Dogon country! -Arran.

    • It is a beautiful country, and people are genuinely welcoming, in a way that isn’t the norm. I was there a couple of years ago, before the recent troubles, and there are still areas of the country where it isn’t safe – although that was always true, a group of Europeans were kidnapped close to the border with Burkina Faso a couple of weeks before I arrived in the country. A friend who is in Mali, and has strong connections to the Tuareg, says the Festival au Desert will be back close to Timbuktu in 2014.

      • That is great to hear, as visiting that Desert festival is part of my Mali-dream. I have visions of story-tellers and musicians round the campfires under the stars. Tell me, what language (s?) do most of the traditional bards and musicians use? Is it French or Arabic or local languages? i worry I’d sit there (by the fire) grinning happy like a fool, but unable to understand a word. 😮 Do you think I would get by with just my (average) French?

        • I think the language of a lot of the Tuareg music is Tamasheq (grinning like a fool is compulsory). In terms of communicating most people speak some French (and even some English is spoken at the festival). On the main stage, there are musicians from all over West Africa and a variety of languages. That said, in rural areas, French speakers can be hard to find.

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