Tunisian town attracts flocks of tourists with desert festival
On the terrace of a two-floor Dar El Souk cafe, located in the heart of Douz town in southern Tunisia, local university students were drinking coffee, while enjoying the traditional Sahara dance performances.
On the souk square, the folk bands wearing farmla jackets and balga shoes, the traditional clothes of the Sahara region, played folk music to the cheers of audience.
Wang Wenkai, a 30-year-old Chinese tourist, said these “exotic” performances enabled direct interaction with “the traditional life and customs of the Sahara” as well as “the enthusiasm of the desert people.”
The 51st Douz International Sahara Festival kicked off on December 20 in the small Tunisian town of Douz, and is expected to attract 50,000 tourists to the town.
Bachtoula Bechir, spokesperson of the festival, told the Xinhua News Agency that more than 20,000 visitors attended the celebration activities on the first day.
“There are cultural performances such as nomadic traditional songs and dances, traditional wedding ceremonies, traditional sports such as camel fighting, horse racing and Slougui hunting [dog hunting], as well as traditional crafts and local food exhibitions,” said Sami Beljaj, director of the festival’s organizing committee.
According to Tunisian Culture Minister Mohamed Zine El-Abidine, the world-famous annual international desert festival has great significance.
It not only helps protect the traditional life and culture of the Sahara region in southern Tunisia, but also attracts foreign tourists, promotes tourism and creates more job opportunities for local residents, he said.
This festival, originally a nomadic camel festival in the early 20th century, has now developed into an international festival, attracting a large number of tourists each year to the Sahara region.
Bai Guangming, cultural counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Tunisia, said the Douz festival also holds great charm for Chinese tourists.
“Since Tunisia began offering visa-free entry to Chinese tourists last year, more Chinese visitors have come to this North African country,” said Bai.
“Douz in the Sahara region has become a must-visit place for Chinese tourists,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bechir said his country welcomes “more Chinese tourists to come and discover the beautiful landscape of the Sahara and the traditional culture of the region.”
“This festival brings successful business and we have received customers from all over the world, including Germany, Italy, France and China,” Mohamed Gharsailla, a 32-year-old waiter from the Dar El Souk cafe, said.
“Douz has really become an international tourism town and we feel proud and happy.”