Where’s Claire? Tunisia – Part 4

Mimi ON Aug 21, 2009 AT 5:42 pm

Ksar Ouled Soltane

Ksar Ouled Soltane

By Claire Tamara Yates 

The Sahara
Tunisia is a gateway to the Sahara and from Djerba, we hired a driver to take us south west to experience the desert landscape. Along the way, it was tough to fit in all the sights – we settled on visiting two ‘ksar’Ksar Hiddada and Ksar Ouled Soltane – medieval fortified residences and grain stores standing up to four storeys high. Due to the weird futuristic architecture, the ksar earned starring roles in the Star Wars movies, standing in as Jedi houses on alien planets.

Heading further east, we reached our overnight destination of Matmata. This region of Tunisia is famous for ‘troglodyte’ dwellings, carved into the earth by the fair-skinned Berber people to escape from the heat of the desert. One dwelling so weird that it starred as an alien disco in the original Star Wars movie has been made into the Hotel Marhala, a rabbit warren of rooms and corridors 20 feet underground, and featured in a Times article as one of the wackiest hotels in the world! It’s definitely worth an overnight stay here for that alone, but bear in mind this is not of the same luxury standard as the other hotels mentioned – keep in mind that bathroom facilities are shared and electricity means a light bulb with a switch in the room!

Fancy a camel ride in The Sahara

Fancy a camel ride in The Sahara

After a relatively comfortable night, we carried on the next day passing through barren sandy landscapes towards Douz, which is on the edge of the ‘erg’ (sands) where sand dunes peak like brushstrokes. At this point, it was time to give in to the tourist must-do – a ride on a camel in the Sahara. It was surprisingly enjoyable and gave a rarely seen insight into an endless horizon of sand stretching for miles.

Driving further along one of the most interesting routes in Tunisia, we crossed the Chott el-Jerid, a vast salt lake shimmering in the sun like a mirage. Taking a photo, the horizon merged into the sky – it was like nothing we’d seen before. This road is remarkably scenic and definitely worth allocating extra time on your journey of discovery.

Tozeur was our destination town and is another major gateway to the sands of the Great Eastern erg.  It is also one of the country’s most beautiful oases and contains over 3000 palm trees. From here, all too quickly, we flew back to Tunis to take the international flight home.

I cannot recommend Tunisia highly enough for a destination that encompasses a multitude of attractions. What with the tangle of streets in which to lose yourself in Tunis, the ancient history on offer in Carthage, the artistic Sidi Bou Said, unspoilt Djerba and the mystique of the troglodyte villages on the desert edge, there is something for everyone. My only regret was missing other recommended sites – El-Jem, an awe-inspiring coliseum to rival Rome’s, and staying in one of the luxury camp sites located deeper into the desert.

I propose visiting this country before the secret gets out – Tunisia’s popularity is just beginning.

Hotel Information
Hotel Marhala – Double room, dinner and breakfast – Euro 30

Missed part one of Claire’s review? Click here to read it now.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments are closed.