The Tunisian gateway to Sahara
© Christine Petré
The Tunisian gateway to Sahara
Last updated: March 23, 2014

PHOTOS: The Tunisian gateway to Sahara

Banner Icon There is something unique about standing on top of a sand dune and seeing nothing but just that: a sea of sand as far as your eyes can reach, surrounded by nothing but complete emptiness.

Sahara reaches from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, an incredibly vast area of 9 065 million square kilometres, touching eleven countries.

The Tunisian desert, the gateway to northern Sahara, begins 50 kilometres south of Douz and continues 500 kilometres southwest into Algeria. The territory remains home to not only the Berbers, who’ve lived here since the 4th century AD, but also the nomadic people of Touareg and Tubu.

"You can either chose to travel by a 4WD car or stay close to nature by the more primitive transportation; the camel – 'the Toyota Corollas of the desert'"

138 kilometres southeast of Douz you find Ksar Ghilane. In its slightly touristic camp is one hotel, and restaurants and cafés, which are surrounded by hot springs. This is a far better entrance to the desert than Douz, its beautiful scenery has been the set of movies such as The English Patient.

Entering the desert you can either chose to travel by a 4WD car or stay close to nature by the more primitive transportation; the camel. Lonely Planet cheekily describes the animal as, “the Toyota Corollas of the desert: neither stylish nor luxurious, strictly functional vehicles to get you from one dune to the next.”

Even though it does summarise the strange animal quite well, there is something mystical about rocking back and forth across the dunes. (But be aware, it is slightly painful and also a lesson in patience, it for sure isn’t fast.)

Besides patience the desert leaves you with a sense of peace, you feel like you’ve visited the end of the world. The unique and mystical encounter is a once in a lifetime experience. But enough of rambling, as the Nigerien Touareg Mano Dayak once claimed: the desert cannot be described, it can only be lived. 

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Christine Petré
Christine Petré is an editor at Your Middle East. You can follow her work at
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