Douz Sahara Festival prepares for next edition, pandemic on mind

Organisers mull strict health measures or cancellation
Tuesday 13/10/2020
Horse riders carrying rifles perform during the Sahara Festival in December 2018 in Douz, Tunisia. (AFP)
Horse riders carrying rifles perform during the Sahara Festival in December 2018 in Douz, Tunisia. (AFP)

TUNIS – The spread of the coronavirus pandemic is presenting a challenge for the International Sahara Festival in Douz, which is scheduled to be held from December 25-28 in the southern Tunisian town.

According to the festival’s organising committee, the 53rd edition of this festival will be organised with strict health guidelines, but could also be cancelled or postponed if new restrictions are introduced.

The festival poster (Facebook)
The festival poster (Facebook)

“The decision to maintain the organisation of this edition comes after a series of consultations with several partners among businesses and components of civil society in the region,” festival director Abdelmajid Boukhris said in a statement reported by Tunisian new agency TAP.

The popular annual event has a rich programme that includes outdoor activities such as camel, horse and Arabian saluki racing and traditional dances and shows. This year, the festival plans to hold a national poetry competition called “The Storm.” The deadline for submissions is set for November 28.

Horse rider perform during a past edition of the Sahara Festival. (Facebook)
Horse rider perform during a past edition of the Sahara Festival. (Facebook)

Many followers raised concerns about the health precautions at the event, which is usually held at a crowded square that can host up to 50,000 people. The festival’s committee wrote on Facebook that “the festival will not be regular unless the general health situation permits it.” Boukhris added that a special committee tasked with developing a health protocol will be formed to ensure the safety of all guests, especially during major street performances.

He noted that the committee will take strict and rigorous measures to ensure compliance with the health protocol to protect guests.

On the question of foreign participation, Boukhris said that management has received several applications from Arab and foreign troops, but no decision has been reached due to the evolution of the country’s health situation.

Further restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis could force the event to be cancelled or postponed, like the 15th session of the Arab Festival of Arts in Douz.

A camel rider competes in a race during the Sahara Festival in December 2018 in Douz, Tunisia. (AFP)
A camel rider competes in a race during the Sahara Festival in December 2018 in Douz, Tunisia. (AFP)

Founded in 1910, the Douz festival gives visitors the opportunity to discover the “gateway to the great Sahara.” It attracts numerous visitors from Tunisia, Algeria and around the world each year.

Douz residents often benefit from increased business activity during the period, but are concerned about the effect of the pandemic this year, noting that there will likely be far less guests in attendance.