Five Days in the Desert: Interview with Abdou Elouali, founder of Transahara Festival

Taking place in the farthest reaches of the Sahara Desert, Transhara is for committed festival enthusiasts only. With the sand dunes forming both stage and dance floor, fans flock from all over the globe for this five day desert party – featuring some of the best new electronic and house music about. We caught up with festival founder Abdou Elouali to find out all about Morocco’s hottest new festival…

Abdou Elouali

What was the inspiration behind setting up Transahara Calling? What is the ethos behind it?

Very simple: I visited Merzouga for the first time in 1997. I climbed a sand dune that was about 150m high just before the sunrise and BAM! I said to my friend I was traveling with ‘Wow guys, imagine a party where people come from around the world to dance and celebrate just right here at the foot of the dunes’ and a friend answered ‘It would be cool but don’t dream too much as it’s impossible, it’s too far from anything and who will come to your crazy party?’ A couple of years later, I decided to make the dream a reality and produce my own party ‘Transahara’.

I started talking about the project and a few months later I came across a website for Morocco2001, a one-off new year festival taking place in a similar area. I got in touch with the organiser and explained that I was working on a similar project and they hired me on the team as a logistics manager… I fell in love with this job at this time.

In 2002 I launched the first edition, Dunes … Only 50 people came to the party with 2 tickets sold and here we are – Transahara 2013, 7th Edition.

The Sahara is an enormous place of beauty. It has a tremendous energy and gives us the most incredible and unexpected experiences. All the artists and travellers who experienced this festival agree Transahara is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and this is the motivation that keeps pushing me to organise!

Transahar Festival | Morocco

You have 1,000 or so people out in the desert – tell us about the party and the music?

As far as music goes Transahara is a very eclectic festival and it’s embedded in the electronic music culture. Our concept is tightly connected with both ancient and new styles and branches of underground and alternative electronic music. It is not an exclusive electronic music style event the event features many different styles of music from all walks of life. Be prepared to listen to some of the best psychedelic trance, house, tech house, progressive, minimal techno, world music, chill out & ambient from a world-class line up!

The party is held in April so it only attracts REAL festival goers because it’s very far and expensive to get there. People who come really love the experience of the journey and I have an amazing crowd each time with the last event attracting people from over 60 countries!

Transahar Festival | Morocco

Where do your guests come from… do they tend to come back year after year? How quickly has it grown?

Well in 2001 we had 40, 2006 – 60, 2007 -120, 2008 – 300, 2009 – 600, 2011 -1000 It takes times to grow and as it’s such a big mission sometimes I need to take a year break or more to relax. We will never go over 2500 people to preserve the impact of the festival on the environment. It is, and will always be, an intimate family affair with half the crowd coming every year. I have seen new friends, new couples, marriages, new encounters spin out from this event!

How do the Moroccan authorities and the locals see the festival – did you have to work to get them on side?

Morocco is very touristy because of it’s geographic position. The local authorities are very friendly and are aware about the promotion we do for the region and for Morocco. We give the country another image of Morocco that foreigners do not know, every time I meet people travelling I tell them about Transahara and they are impressed we have this in Morocco and intrigued to attend!

Transahar Festival | Morocco

Tell us about the electronic music scene in North Africa – we assume it has been growing in recent years, who are the frontrunners in the scene and who is really hot at the moment?

It’s definitely growing! This year, I invited Morokoloko, a new house party label that rock! They are building a camp with an amazing house and techno stage – Check them out and tell me what you think about this…

Festivals have been a huge business in Europe over the last five years – are you finding that there is an appetite for more and more extreme and out of the way festivals?

Of course! People are bored of the super commercial party. Going to a desert to dance for five days and meet new people from all over the world, the road to the festival, the immersion in another culture, the beauty of the dunes, the nomads… it’s truly another level and there are people all over the globe looking for a real experience, a complete escape from normality with amazing people!

Transahar Festival | Morocco

What do you see the next big thing in Morocco as? What are the trends that you have picked up in the last 12 months?

New and contemporary house is coming on strongly in Morocco. We would love to book artists like Lee Burridge, Tale of Us, Thugfucker, Seth Troxler…. and we will!

Are you able to supply us with the ultimate desert soundtrack?

Listen to this one, I am sure you will find it soon on our new video promo:

For more information visit


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