While it is clear that music is the life force behind EDM, no one can argue that dance music would not be where it is now without the driving force of its festival scene. From Woodstock in the early 1970s to the early days of EDC in Los Angeles in the 2000s to the massive underground festivals of Europe, music festivals have been deeply ingrained into the world’s culture.

In a new weekly series, EDM.com is shining the spotlight on lesser known festivals around the world that are on par with marquee festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra, and Tomorrowland. These festivals are highlighted for the atmosphere, the people, and most importantly, the music and the talent that they bring. From Austria’s signature Snowbombing festival, to ZoukOut in Singapore, to Shambhala in Canada, this series will be your one-stop guide to some of the best hidden gems in the festival scene around the world.

This week’s pick is the one-of-a-kind Transahara Festival in Morocco.

Transahara Festival is in a class of its own. The festival was founded in 2002 by Abdou Elouali, who was inspired to create the one-of-a-kind festival as he was climbing a 150 foot sand dune at sunrise (talk about enlightening). When Elouali threw the first Transahara festival, it only attracted fifty people, with two ticket sales, but the bi-annual festival has since grown to hosting over 1,000 people in 2013, and even more in this year's rendition. 

Taking place in the furthest reaches of the Sahara Desert, on the border of Morocco and in the dunes of Merzouga, Transahara is a five-day journey that is for committed festival enthusiasts only. The exact location of the festival is kept secret from all non-participants, and even festival-goers do not find out the location until they arrive. Those attending Transahara are required to go to a pre-determined village, where they are then transported to the festival grounds, 30 minutes away. The journey to Transahara, as well as the potentially extreme conditions that may hit while the festival is occurring, deters many passionate festival enthusiasts from attending the festival, but those that make the journey are rewarded with a breathtaking backdrop and unbeatable music.

With the golden, sloping sand dunes of the Sahara providing a surreal landscape that is unmatched by any festival in the world, Transahara’s festival grounds may be one of the most spectacular views on Earth. The dunes of Merzouga are some of the tallest around the world, and watching the sunrise and sunset over the dunes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Since its inception in 2002, Transahara has carried a different theme into each rendition of the festival. This year’s theme was 2015: A DUNES ODYSSEY, an homage to the thirteen year journey that the Transahara festival has had. The theme each year influences the lineup, the art, and the setup of the festival, and the 2015 theme deals with music, arts, human evolution, humans versus technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life.

There’s no denying that the music at Transahara each year is a diverse and eclectic offering. The festival is firmly embedded in both the old and new electronic music cultures out of Europe and branches from both the underground and the alternative dance music scene. Each year, Transahara has three distinct stages, split by genre - a stage is dedicated to trance, another is dedicated to house and techno, and the last is a mixture of chill-out, dub, and psychedelic music.

In 2015, the Einstein Rosen Bridge stage featured a mixture of psytrance, progressive, and techno, welcoming acts like Sweden’s Son Kite and a live performance by the UK’s E.V.P. The Stephen Hawking Gate stage, which specialized in progressive house, deep house, and minimal techno, saw a live and DJ set by the Belfast-native, Max Cooper, in addition to sets by European up-and-comers, Robin Roots and PIX. The last stage, Zero Gravity, featured a mixture of bass-heavy, chill-out music, with performances by Brojanowski, Psygasus, amongst many others.

Transahara festival is a strictly camping festival, but a festival ticket includes a camping spot, as well as two meals a day for the length of the festival. Festival-goers cannot bring their own food or drink, in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the festival, and they do not need to bring their own tents or camping supplies either - the festival provides traditional Moroccan tents, complete with rugs, sleeping supplies, and more.

For those that are interested in attending Transahara, there is some bad news. The festival, which took place April 8th to 12th, 2015, announced in 2014 that this would be the eighth, and final, rendition of Transahara.

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