Experience the Sahara Desert and much more – visit Tunisia
One thing that we found while living in the United Kingdom that was completely different to living in Australia was the preferred holiday booking style. We found the people we knew preferred to book ‘all inclusive’ packages rather than arrange trips and adventures separately and pay for their food on location. So we gave it a go and decided to visit Tunisia, North Africa.
A word to the wise when booking ‘all inclusive’ packages – always double check the details, including:
- All bars are open and operational – when we went half the bars were closed;
- If cocktails are included, what are they – apparently Bourbon and coke is the only cocktail known to Tunisians;
- What resort activity equipment is included in the package;
The resort we stayed in was located in Sousse. It reminded us a little of the movie Dirty Dancing – there were activities everyday including archery, stretching (yep, stretching is an activity), volleyball and many more arthritis easing things to do. Although the resort was relatively nice, it did have a retirement village feel to it.
Since the retirement village was pumping (not), we decided to take advantage of one of the many tours on offer and ended up booking a two-day Sahara Desert trek. The good thing to note is the full two days is not in the desert, but also seeing other places south of Tunisia. The tour started at 7am and traveled south to El Jem where we saw one of the best preserved Colosseums in the world. We then headed to Matmata to see the rock-hewn caves which were used in the first Star Wars film.
Next on the agenda was Douz which is located on the fringes of the Sahara Desert. When we arrived, approximately 4pm, we were put on camels and taken into the Sahara to watch the sunset. This was truly a great experience. Some of the hotels in Douz include Hot Springs in which you can relax and wind down in after a big day of travel and adventure. If you can get past the smell and the not-knowing what’s in the water, it is actually pretty relaxing. Plus, the springs are outside under the stars. That experience on its own is a sight to be seen.
The local cuisine consisted of couscous and brick (Brik is a deep fried pastry envelope with a veggie or meat stuffing) – traditional for Tunisian people.
Day 2 of the Sahara Desert trek
Day two saw us make our way to Chott El Djerid to watch the sun rise over the salt lakes. Then, the real adventure began – we jumped in 4×4 Land Cruiser and headed to Om Jemal to see the filmset that was built for ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’. It was a bizarre to see that they had left the whole set in the desert and it was still standing – a nice little tourist attraction for the Country nonetheless.
After exploring Om Jemal, we continued to Chebika. Nestled at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, a palm-swathed oasis town which featured in many scenes of ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lose Ark’. This place was absolutely beautiful – picture this: you are driving through barren land and then, out of no where, this beautiful oasis pops up. It was really an unforgettable site.
Interesting fact – Tunisia still has a large population of Berbers. Berbers are tribes that live in caves in the mountains, these people live very simple lives and don’t use electricity or cars. It was really interesting seeing what it would be like to live a world without material things.
Our guided tour was by far the most exciting thing we did in Tunisia. We had 3 more nights at our
retirement village resort after our tour finished and found ourselves relaxing a lot more. We managed to get into the whole Dirty Dancing scene and were more open mined to our new retirement home. Dan joined a Russian Volley ball team as Theresa relaxed by the beach.
Overall it was a relaxing holiday and that’s what we wanted. Even though at times it was very boring, we were definitely able to relax.
Special note to Australian’s traveling to Tunisia
Immigration were not to familiar with Australian passports. We were held up when entering because of confusion over visas. To make things more interesting we actually accidentally overstayed our visa by one day and were held by customs while we negotiated being allowed to leave the country on our flight back to Scotland.