We hired a car in Hammamet, and drove south, via Kairouan, to stay in the desert town of Douz on the edge of the Sahara.
The Tunisian Sahara is known as the Grand Erg Oriental – and erg translates as ‘field of dunes’.
Our journey took us across the Chott El Jerid, the largest salt pan of the Sahara, where temperatures can soar to 50° C. Halfway across, we parked at the edge of the sun-baked road and tentatively stepped out onto the salt crust. Mirages of castles and spaceships shimmered in the distance, as elusive as rainbow-ends.
Eventually we reached Douz, where minarets and blue-shuttered houses appeared ghostly in the half-light of dusk, and the pale dunes, as fine as icing sugar, rolled into the seeming infinity of the Sahara.
Google map: bit.ly/RNbhjJ
The Douz Festival is based on an ancient Bedouin gathering when Saharan tribes met to trade and, legend has it, to marry off their daughters. Instead, today, the Saharan Bedouins compete in camel, horse and dog races, folklore performances and traditional plays. Their backdrop is the 150-mile salt lake of Chott El Ferid, which set the scene for the film, The English Patient and the golden sand dunes that were a setting for Star Wars.
Walk about, listen to bands from competing tribes, ride a camel called Mustapha, attend a busy market and eat fresh fish, such as red snapper, sea bass, bream, grouper, red mullet, tuna and prawns. The sweet baklava is to die for.
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