International Festival of the Sahara, wider-reaching celebration of nomadic traditions.

EACH year, in the Tunisian city of Douz on the edge of the Sahara Desert, thousands of people gather to observe a century-old ritual.

Over four days they witness and take part in spectacular fantasia displays, public marriages, unusual dances and other celebrations of the unique Bedouin traditions.

This is the International Festival of the Sahara, a tradition revered to people across North Africa but much less known to those beyond it.

But intrepid foreigners are slowly starting to make their way to Douz for the four-day arts and cultural event, which is held around December or January each year.

Last month, Czech photojournalist Jakub Kyncl was lucky enough be among them. He captured these stunning images of what he saw.

“Douz is often branded as a ‘gateway to the Sahara’ as the desert starts literally just behind the gates of the city,” Kyncl told

“The whole city was living with bedouins traditions for those few days.

“Altogether around 100,000 people [attended], mainly from Tunisia, as it is an event mainly popular among locals. But the reason some tourists come to see it is because they have a very authentic experience.

“Sometimes they decide to stay in tent camps in the Sahara, about one hour’s drive away from the city, to have a complete experience. I did it two years ago — some of the camps even have air conditioning inside the tents, which really surprised me.”

A focal point of the festival is the fantasia display — daring horseriders performing stunts on galloping horses — as well as dancing, including dancers from Tunisia as well as Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Egypt.

Kyncl’s collection includes photos of sloughi dogs chasing rabbits, bedouin horse and camel riders and girls from the Berber ethnic group performing a unique, traditional dance.

“They’re sitting and rotating their heads in a very fast manner in order to make their hair fly through the air all the time,” he said.

 The event started as a camel festival in 1910 and eventually evolved into the International Festival of the Sahara as a wider-reaching celebration of nomadic traditions.Kyncl said organisers hoped to see even more international guests in the 50th year of the current festival next year.

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