Transahara is a very original festival, in the desert. It is a magical musical oasis in a dried-up Moroccan lake in the shadow of a mysterious sand dune that you normally only find deep in the Sahara desert.
It plays out near the city of Merzouga from the 17th to 21st March 2022 and coincides with the equinox, a very special and spiritual moment that marks the passage from winter to spring, darkness to light, meaning you will simultaneously see the moon setting and the sun rising on the same breathtaking horizon.
An eye-opening, unforgettable mix of music, culture, and art with open-minded people from all over the world.
We have had the pleasure of discussing the festival with its founder, Abdou Elouali, in the interview below.
How are you? What have these past 18 months or so been like in the world of festivals for you?
What can I say? Feeling great, excited, and full of energy!
When you can’t deliver an event, you switch the focus to preparation, to the future. As did many artists – instead of touring, they stayed home and worked on their music…I stayed home and envisioned and worked on my future projects, including Transahara.
It was also an opportunity to settle down, and draw a clear vision of the festival and all the other projects I’m creating. The past 8 months have been a bit of a marathon of preparation, even though with the whole Covid situation, I always had faith it would move on and things will get back to normal.
Give us some history of the Transahara event and how the first one was established, how many people attended, where it was, and what the vibe was like?
Transahara’s history goes back to 2002, a first edition that had about 50 attendees. It wasn’t my first festival, but it was the first in such an environment, the Sahara, in Merzouga.
It was originally supposed to happen in the spring but was postponed many times to the summertime, night time was amazing but in day time… it was the real Sahara, with more than 52 degrees in the afternoon in July. (i will never do this again, promise 🙂 ).
The vibes were spectacular, even with modest means. The area back then was almost inaccessible, about 40 km of gravel off-road… so you can imagine how it was transporting all the gear out there.
In short, it was an actual adventure but we made it! It was the first time ever where a DJ was playing on a proper sound system in the Sahara. This experience makes me feel like the first man on Mars! I like so much the idea that Transahara started with only 50 people 20 years ago, as a fetus…
At present, how many people are there in the crew and how many people does it take to make it successful? What is your day-to-day job like when working on an event like this?
The whole team, if you count the administration, production, decoration, logistics, box offices, security, artists, etc… is more than 250 people.
The core Transahara team is 11 people; these are my partners, employees, and consultants who are working with me day to day to ensure that everything is done perfectly. We also have a huge network of collaborators with whom we work quite often.
My day-to-day job at this stage is a lot of organization, coordinating between departments, meeting with different teams, a focus on marketing & bookings, etc.
A festival takes incredible project management skills that I thankfully acquired through 20 years of experience.
Why is this years’ return going to be the best and biggest in the event’s history?
Transahara is a sanctuary, we threw amazing parties there about 8 times, the last one in 2015. After a 7 years absence, the return must be big or the biggest as you said!
An absence during which I co-founded the SXM Festival in Sint Maarten, being the executive producer and the artistic director of the first three editions of this amazing festival (2016 to 2019). Now back to Morocco with a fresh perspective as the people have been waiting for a long time to go back to the dunes and party.
We have planned awesome features: exceptional line-up, unique concepts, 3 stages, and a beautiful line up of conceptual and installations artists, the deco, the wellness team…. The goal is to bring the best of both worlds, Psy-Trance & Techno, and merge them in the 3 stages, making Transahara a cool and unique artistic experience.
Transahara is like a 20-year-old vintage scotch bottle, and we are about to open it and celebrate!
I am blessed to have raised 2 such beautiful festivals, one in the Sahara and one in the Caribbean. It’s like the yin and the yang for a promoter, very satisfying to have experienced both…
The location is obviously a huge pull factor for the event, tell us more about it, what can party-goers expect?
Erg Chebbi is indeed a spectacular sight, considered the highest dunes in Morocco. Compared to other parts of the Moroccan Sahara, Merzouga has unique colors that can be discovered during different times of the day.
The Area is also a very spiritual place for Muslim and Jewish communities… Another fun fact, the whole region is sitting on the biggest phreatic zone of Morocco
(The term ‘phreatic surface’ indicates the location where the pore water pressure is under atmospheric conditions).
Believe me, Erg Chebbi Dunes (Merzouga) IS the most beautiful location for a festival.
Musically what is the policy of the event; it’ll be a blend of psytrance, techno and more?
And more, exactly! We’re coming this year with a new vision, keeping the roots of Transahara with a great PsyTrance line up, we have booked a lot of legends of the psytrance, but also kick-ass Techno and House performances to make it the great experience we promised.
At this edition of Transahara (and the future), the idea is to assemble the best of psytrance, techno, house, and chill out. Usually, these are genres that almost never meet at festivals. We see some attempts, but it is rarely done successfully (Rainbow Serpent in Australia / Noisily in the UK are examples where it is). A balance of both Worlds and therefore, reaching out to two kinds of audiences who rarely party together.
We also bring a very original touch which we believe is unique to this event. We won’t have a stage specified for a musical genre, we’ll be putting different performances on the same stage!
And finally, Transahara 2022 will also be more than a musical event, we’ll have a bunch of other activities: Yoga shops, meditation, sound healing… But also a beautiful lineup of contemporary artists from Morocco and from around the world to set up art installations.
Who are you most excited to welcome to the party, any standout artists we can expect?
I really can’t say for now…. It’ll be a surprise, however, we’ll announce the first phase of the lineup on the 10th of October!
As it’s set to be a very travel-focused music event, are there any useful tips for any first-time visitors?
Embrace it! seriously, enjoy every moment of the trip. Land in Marrakech, rent a car, make a road trip ideally with a group of friends, enjoy the mountain views..the road from Marrakech to Merzouga is one of the most beautiful in Morocco, you will travel from the snowy Atlas mountains to the valley, to the rocky desert to end up in the dunes… For more practical tips, on our website, there is a whole section dedicated to guiding first-timer visitors!
What are the main challenges and what are you most set on getting perfect for the event?
The main challenge is that the location is very remote. Logistics costs are very high. Taking care of guests, ensuring the right accommodations… There are many challenges! In addition, this year, accommodation is mandatory so we will need to organize for 3000 guests, teams and artists.
As I mentioned before this is our return, there will be many editions to come, so my focus is to ensure Transahara 2022 goes as smoothly as possible, then, we’ll grow even bigger with each event.
What is the overall goal of the festival, in terms of success?
This edition is really a message, it’s me and my team telling the world Transahara is back, that’s the goal. Of course, it’ll be bigger than ever, so be ready to share the bright future with us!
Who knows, maybe we are on the premises of a future burning man….Moroccan style.
Finally, tell us more about the Equinox for us and why it’ll potentially be a big part of the festival!
From experience, in 2008, we had a full moon. It was absolutely spectacular, at a certain moment, we had the sun and the moon facing each other at the same instant!
Hopefully, we’ll be enjoying the same experience this edition. On the morning of the 18th, where will see both stars clearing in the sky
It’s a blessed period, also, with a lot of spiritual meanings. We will let the guests discover that energy. People come from all over the world, from places where it’s usually cold at that time, to enjoy 5 days of sun and sand., and when people are back, the sun is back everywhere…
They leave Transahara after experiencing all the seasons in a couple of days ( on the road from Marrakech you pass the snowy mountain and 2 hours after you left the mountain, you are already at the doors of the desert), from winter to spring, one may say, from darkness to light!
I also think Transahara is the perfect occasion to celebrate in the desert the end of this very shady period for humanity…