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Traditional Bedouin wedding procession marked by the houdach. Click on photo to enlarge.
Traditional Bedouin wedding procession marked by the houdach

The Festival of the Sahara: Galloping Stallions, Camel Wrestling and Rabbit Chases

The event coordinates a short-lived match between two one-ton camels. The audience gasps at the strength and agility of the normally tame and placid creatures.

The camels bite each other on the ears and necks but it's mostly confined to pushing, shoving and locking the weaker into submission.

Communal Dances

The excitement simmers when a line of a dozen young girls crouch to the ground and swing their long brown tresses from side-to-side to the cacophony of tribal music blaring from the speakers.

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This dance is known as the nakh or 'hair dance' and it's easy to see how a loose-swaying mane once hypnotized Berber men into marriage, an intended result. The girls toss their hair back and forth like the wind.

Dog vs the Underdog

The dog and rabbit chase jolts everyone back on their feet placing bets on which will win - the quick and muscular Arabian greyhound or the small furry mammal.

The dog and rabbit chase caught with a quick shutter. Click on photo to enlarge.
The dog and rabbit chase caught with a quick shutter

The hound is a Moroccan breed called the Sloughi, possible related to the dogs of the Egyptian Pharaoh and trained to hunt since ancient times.

It takes several hounds with the grace, power and speed of a winning thoroughbred to finally trap Bugs Bunny, much to the disappointment of cheering kids rooting for the underdog.

Camel Silhouettes

Three hours into the final performance the color of the sunburned sky softens into a warm amber glow. The desert grows cold and the faces of the performers show signs of thirst and fatigue.

A setting desert sun at the culmination of a four-day festival
A setting desert sun at the culmination of a four-day festival

I too am so caught up in the excitement of the show that I don?t feel my kneecaps buckling under from squatting so long.

After the final horserace, every one takes a bow and the audience reciprocates with a standing ovation. Security can breath easy now and helps me to my feet.

The place clears out in no time but the pride Tunisians feel for their timeless heritage lasts long after the blowing sands settle over the Sahara.

 

 

View more of Sony Stark's photos from the Festival of the Sahara.

 

 

 

 

Sonja Stark, shown with new friends in Tunisia, is a freelance videographer, editor and travel writer, founder of Pilotgirl Productions and a GoNOMAD staff writer.

 

 

 

An artiste in Quebec City Visit our Sony Stark Page with links to all her stories

 

Read more GoNOMAD stories about Tunisia

 


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Tunisia

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