Desert oases, towns full of palm trees and sunset camel rides… every romantic, iconic notion you could ever conjure up about Arabia is alive in this region. Add to that the largest and arguably the most spectacular desert in the world and you’re guaranteed a trip of a lifetime. While the Sahara may be one of the most remote places on earth, it’s also a sanctuary for the soul and a true gem for the jaded traveller.
A camel ride through the Sahara is an experience you will never forget and not just because sand gets in every orifice in your body but you truly feel as though you are in a movie set! You can be the star of your own movie…I was Laura of Arabia! Ha! A couple of times we stopped and had sweet mint tea with the local berber men. You literally park your camel out the front of their tent sit around a fire and share in conversation and refreshments, it’s simply surreal.
You can understand why George Lucas used this area as the back drop for Star Wars. He even named a planet in the movie after the town Tatouine. I figured I should check out some of the spots made famous by the iconic movie so I continued on my magical journey and ventured to a land far, far away. I found ‘the force’ in the lunar-like landscapes of Southern Tunisia, the region is literally out of this world.
I visited the troglodyte dwellings of Matmata, before stopping at Tatouine and went on a mad picture taking rampage, the town is crazy photogenic! I also lost my mind in the ancient hilltop cave village of Chenine, it really is time-capsule culture at its finest. Continuing on my Star Wars expedition I travelled to a massive salt lake in the middle of the desert, the place where Luke Skywalker first sees the two moons in the sky and finishes up wandering aimlessly around the Dune Sea, it’s also the same place where R2D2 and C3PO were lost, which of course Star Wars fans can appreciate. I couldn’t complete my trip without visiting the Hotel Sidi Driss where parts of the Star Wars set still exists.
I’m no die hard Star Wars fan by any stretch of the imagination but my little cruise around was something I would definitely recommend if visiting Tunisia. If you are a “Warsie” or a “Jedi Junkie” then pop this one on the Bucket List.
The Republic of Tunisia lies on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, 130km (80 miles) southwest of Sicily and 160km (100 miles) due south of Sardinia. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast. The landscape varies from the cliffs of the north coast to the woodlands of the interior, from deep valleys of rich arable land to desert, and from towering mountains to salt pans lower than sea level. South of Gafsa and Gabès is the Sahara desert. The 1100km (700 miles) of coastline is dotted with small islands, notably Jerba in the south and Kerkennah in the east, and from the northwest to the southeast the coastline is backed successively by pine-clad hills, lush pasture, orchards, vineyards and olive groves.The official language is Arabic. French is the second language, Italian is spoken in major cities, and English and German mainly in tourist resorts.
The principal religion is Islam; there are small Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish minorities.
I loved the Tunisian food, it’s is well prepared and delicious, particularly the authentic lamb or dorado (bream) couscous, the fish dishes, tajine and brik or brik à l’oeuf (egg and a tasty filling fried in an envelope of pastry). Tunisian dishes are cooked with olive oil, spiced with aniseed, coriander, cumin, caraway, cinnamon or saffron and flavoured with mint, orange blossom or rose water. Restaurants catering for tourists tend to serve rather bland dishes and ‘international’ cuisine, and visitors are advised to try the smaller restaurants. Prices vary enormously, and higher prices do not necessarily mean better meals. Tunis and the main cities also have French, Italian and other international restaurants. Self-service may sometimes be found but table service is more common. Moorish cafes, with their traditional decor, serve excellent Turkish coffee or mint tea with pine nuts.
Although Tunisia is an Islamic country, alcohol is not prohibited. Tunisia produces a range of excellent table wines, sparkling wines, beers, aperitifs and local liqueurs, notably Boukha (distilled from figs)
If visiting Tunisa no trip is complete without visiting the local markets , they are set up in many Tunisian towns and villages. All the products of the region are displayed, including handicrafts, farm produce and secondhand goods. There are ONA workshops and stores throughout the country where visitors can buy items at fixed prices. Special purchases include copperware (engraved trays, ashtrays and other utensils); articles sculpted in olive wood; leather goods (wallets, purses, handbags); clothing (kaftans, jelabas, burnuses); pottery and ceramics; dolls in traditional dress; beautiful embroidery; fine silverware and enameled jewellery. Among the most valuable of Tunisia’s products are carpets.
Tunisia has a warm climate all year. Best periods are spring and autumn. Temperatures can be extremely high inland. Winter is mild and has the highest rainfall.