After passing through the Chott el Jerid and Douz, we headed up into the hills. It seems there's really not much to see, just rolling terrain.
Until you realize a couple of yards away, dug into a large pit in the ground is something like this.
According to Ben there are about 50 of these "villages" left, many leave for towns and more modern homes with things like A/C and such. I don't blame them, really. This looks like a fairly spartan and tough way to live.
According to what I read, people thought the folks who came out of these mountains to work on the olive fields in the villages were part of nomadic tribes that travelled the region. It was not until 1967, when the area was flooded after 22 straight days of rain, that the villages sent representatives to ask for aid that people finally knew of these villages.
Several of these villages are open to the public and this was one of them. I did feel a bit uncomfortable....entering people's homes and all that, but this is the way they can support themselves and perhaps preserve their way of like a bit longer. There's no admission, you just leave some dinar in a basket....most of the visitors leave a dinar or two. We put ten in the basket and the woman there asked us to come back in. She gave us some bread they make and then told the Missus to try Her hand at grinding some of the grain with one of the older women....who I was told was in her 80's!!!!
The Missus told me that it took some effort to work the grinder and this woman was pretty strong.
We were finally seeing a good number of tourists.....and then stopped at another site, a former troglodyte village that's now a hotel called Sidi Driss. Was this where we were staying the night? No......but I'm sure many of you will know why so many were stopping here.....
Yes, it's the Lars dining room......
This pretty much seals it....
There were literally bus loads of tourists stopping here. It was somewhat disconcerting..... we'd seen so much in Tunisia, with nary a tourist in sight, and here there were hundred of them wanting their photo taken with plywood facades..... Oh well, pop culture and all that, right?
We turned back from here and headed back toward Douz, making a turn to a pretty rough stretch of road halfway back. We actually came to some areas where you really did need a four-wheel drive. Eventually, we stopped at a little palmeraie. The place really had a sort of "you're not in Kansas anymore" look. There were encampments with simple shacks and tent set-ups. This was Ksar Ghilane, at the edge of the Grand Erg Oriental ("Great Eastern Sand Sea"), the Sahara. Ksar means something like fort and outside of the oasis, there is an ancient Roman fort named Tisavar which was part of the Lines Tripolitanus defense line a couple of kilometers away. The fort was actually used in the Second World War by General Leclerc during his campaign in Tunisia.
Ksar Ghilane was our stop for the night, but we weren't staying in any of those shacks ot simple tents.....our accommodation was at the Pansea . We were told these were "five-star" tents.....not that I knew what a five-star tent was supposed to be like. We'd soon find out.....
Another thing we quickly noticed was how fine th sand was here....it would get into anything. I still had sand in my shoes and bags after we returned from our trip.....several weeks later!
Down the road a bit, you can stop by and even swim in the hot spring that feeds this palmeraie. The water is pretty warm and knowing what grows in warm water....well, nuff said, right?
A few yards further was the Sahara. Now after really enjoying riding camels in Douz, we had Ben arrange for the same here. The sand of the Grand Erg Oriental is a striking red....perhaps you'll remember it from the beginning scenes of the movie The English Patient. It'sreally like that....I can only speak to the beginning of the film. I could never bring myself to make it through even a fourth of it. Man, talk about a slllooooow movie.
I've done quite a bit over just the last couple of years, but for some reason, this is right up there with all of them. The desert is just plain beautiful. We stopped and walked over and around the dunes while the camels rested. I'd been told, but never noticed until now; when resting under normal conditions, camels do face toward the sun!
I'm not going to bore you with a zillion photos of red sand dunes, but there is something strangely mesmerizing about watching a light breeze lift the fine sand of the Sahara......building the next dune, or perhaps just getting into someones shoes.
There was an Asian couple with us, the guy was Taiwanese and the young lady Japanese. The young lady looked like she was being tortured and was obviously terrified of the sun as she was wrapped like a mummy! She kept trying to get sand out of...well everywhere it seemed. Meanwhile, once the camels stopped, the guy just zipped right past us and was running up and down dunes like he'd hit nirvana! It was quite funny.
At about a hundred wards or so before we got back to camp, the wind picked up, the sky got dark, and sand started whipping everywhere. Ben had been waiting for us and told us..."sandstorm...."
Watching things turn on a dime was awe inspiring. We watched the camels huddle together for comfort.
We got back to our tent, showered and freshened up, and went for a walk around the area. The Pansea actually had built a "faux" Ksar tower, which we would take full advantage of later on that evening.
Dinner was, of course, one of those all too standard buffets...this one was especially poor, but considering where we were, it was expected. There was a desert race group from France and they attacked the buffet like a pack of hungry wolves fighting over the last drum stick.
A couple of them were also pretty cheap dates and seemed like they were pretty ripped after two glasses of wine...go figure.
The main buffet strategy was to stay away from proteins...most are terribly bad and keep with the vegetables and stuff like mechouia. It was also nice that in Tunisia, you could get a decent bottle of wine for pretty cheap.....under ten bucks at times!
After dinner, I picked up a bottle of beer at the bar and the Missus and I climbed the stairs up the Ksar and looked at all the stars....you could see them clearly since there wasn't any light to interfere.
We both slept well and as usual got up really early, before the sun. Though we really wouldn't be able to see the sunrise, we still hiked up the tower. This is what one of those clusters of tens look like at 530 in the morning.
The sun was coming up and after breakfast we'd be on the last leg of this private tour. Though our days were full, time sure seemed to be flying by.
Sorry there wasn't much food in this post. I do appreciate you reading!