The Sahara, the word itself often synonymous with the whole concept of a desert, is a landscape of the imagination and one of the great frontiers of adventure travel.
With Tunisia's return to the tourism scene, as a good budget alternative to Morocco, now is the perfect time to saddle up.
Tunisia is a country that is popular for its cuisine, fabrics, soccer and rich culture. Travelling to Tunisia brings you more adventure for the tourists, who get to explore both the desert and North African nation without having to be frivolous with your money. Start off your trip to the desert with a camel ride in Douz.
A lot of tour guides and Tunisian residents will offer the chance of going on a tour with them for the whole day, but you won’t get far in the sand dunes because of time constraints.
However, the cool part is that travellers can book overnight trips to the desert, which allow travellers to get the sand dune experience in the Sahara Desert.
For longer trips that involve camping, allow at least a day to make arrangements with a licensed tour operator – you can contact local agencies like Horizons Deserts Voyages and Nefzaoua Voyages in advance, to confirm arrangements before you arrive in Douz.
Double-check what meals and camping equipment (including bedding) is included in the price and just how far your trip will go into the desert: you don’t want to travel all this way to only to have your camel walk a mile past the town limits.
An overnight tour is the most popular option. After some instruction on the best way to mount your camel and stay in the saddle when it rises to its feet (an unexpectedly wobbly experience), you set out after the heat of the day burns off to ride to a campsite.
Around four hours of trekking is a typical first day, which is more than enough to pick up the swaying rhythm of your mount and also to anticipate which parts of your body might be sore the next day.
Camping near the Sahara desert involves immersing oneself in the culture of Tunisia by sleeping in traditional black woollen Berber tent or lying under the Million-Star Hotel (aka stargazing).
For those that don’t desire to spend long hours exploring the Saharan desert, there is Ksar Ghilane, an oasis in the Tunisian desert that allows for short trips to the desert on camelback.
You could make a serious trek there by camel from Douz in around a week, but those more pressed for time can reach it by sealed road from Douz in a couple of hours (or have your guide from Douz dune-bash it here in a four-wheel-drive.
A beautiful scenery of palm-green, Ksar Ghilane has always attracted attention from the outside, dating back to Roman legionaries on the outposts of an empire to military manoeuvres during World War II.
Nowadays, the place is more peaceful, with campsites of traditional Berber tents pitched under palm trees, huddled around the fresh springs.
Camels, of course, are available to take you into the dunes, as well as a stable of fine Arab horses and rather noisier quad bikes.