Tunisia, the land of music, sand and Star Wars

Bass rhythms increase out throughout the Tunisian Sahara towards a herd of camels, lasers splash colors throughout the dunes and VIPs sip vodka in what was as soon as a Star Wars film set.

The Dunes Electronique music competition, launched in 2014, was revived final weekend on the set the place US director George Lucas created the desert planet of Tatooine.

The competition marked a joyous and noisy comeback after a three-year silence following a number of lethal jihadist assaults within the North African nation which additionally badly hit its tourism sector.

In an indication of the rising attraction of the distant Saharan area and its other-worldly landscapes, greater than 20 worldwide and native DJs and hundreds of revellers converged on the desert website of Ong Jmal in southwest Tunisia for the two-day extravaganza.

“We had already visited Tunis, however this time we got here all the way in which right here for the competition,” mentioned Leopold Poignant, a 22-year-old scholar from Paris who deliberate to additionally go to the close by oasis city of Tozeur after the social gathering.

He mentioned they had been drawn by DJs like Adam Port and Konstantin Sibold,”however we have additionally come for the expertise. It is a Star Wars setting, and partying within the dunes is basically one thing.”

The occasion was held across the round constructions constructed 20 years in the past as settings for the Star Wars space-opera.

Ong Jmal is the most effective identified of a number of websites in Tunisia the place Lucas shot scenes of the youth of his hero Luke Skywalker. Every year, tens of hundreds of vacationers stroll by way of the sand-swept set taking selfies.

As music performed continuous for 30 hours, these not dancing had been huddled in nomadic tents arrange as “chill zones” or, given the very actual night-time desert chill, round camp fires.

Many of the 5,000 revellers had been Tunisians, a few of whom had by no means visited the world earlier than.

“I am a metropolis lady, I do not like these conventional areas, however now there are lots of occasions within the south so I ended up coming,” mentioned Zoubeida.

Military and police had been deployed across the social gathering website, positioned lower than 40km from the Algerian border.

The 2011 revolution which toppled long-time autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the jihadist assaults that killed dozens of vacationers in 2015 dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s important tourism sector.

Though the south was circuitously focused within the assaults, visits to the area have dwindled to largely one-night outings from coastal resorts.

“The largest variety of vacationers now are Russians, they usually solely purchase water on their solution to the desert,” mentioned Nagga Ramzi, a shopkeeper with kohl-lined eyes.

“It is arduous. There’s nothing right here however dates… and tourism.”

Years after the assaults, large-scale tourism has returned to Tunisia and the south hosts a rising variety of occasions.

A Saharan ultra-marathon, the Tozeur Worldwide Movie Pageant and a Sufi music competition referred to as Rouhaniyet have all been launched.

Accommodations are extra usually totally booked, and vacationers are beginning to keep a bit of longer.

Customer numbers have grown constantly over the previous three years, in keeping with Tozeur’s tourism commissioner, Yasser Souf.

From Jan 1 to Oct 30, the quantity has grown by 27%, in comparison with the identical interval of 2019.

Some motels are reopening, smaller visitor homes have multiplied and Thai luxurious resort group Anantara is launching a five-star palace on the finish of December.

Salah Akkoun, a horse carriage driver, hopes vacationers will patronise native companies and be taught to “take their time” within the desert. – AFP

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