Oh… the allover awe-inspiring mystery of the Sahara dunes…
No trip to Southern Tunisia is complete without a visit to Ksar Ghilane. I admit I was skeptical. We turned our little blue box-on-wheels car south off the highway between the resilient outposts of Douz and Matmata and I couldn’t imagine anything, EVER deciding to take up residence in the harsh wilderness that we blazed through for the next hour. Even camels were hard to spot but the kids were thrilled in the back seat as we rose up and down over the rolling landscape, slowing only to make sure we wouldn’t plow headlong into a sand drift that can occasionally threaten to take over the worn down, lonely little ribbon of asphalt that leads to Ksar Ghilane.
We stop at the military checkpoint which also functions as a turn, THE turn in the road which continues to carry us several more kilometers before my husband excitedly asks who can see that far-off strip of darkness on the horizon. Like a scar on the edge of the earth it grows bigger and all eyes are drawn to the little patch which is decidedly turning greener. We begin to make out the shapes of date palms, heavy with their October harvest… lots and lots of date palms… and within minutes we’re taken from the underside of the moon into a veritable jungle. The lush green forest beside, around and over top of us is instantaneously soothing to our eyes which we realize have been in perma-squint position for hours… laughter spontaneously springs up and out of us all as we behold a true desert oasis.
We roll towards our simple tented camp and marvel at the collection of travelers, adventure-seekers, nomads and 4×4 caravans that are taking up camp here for the night. The natural hot-spring pool is a hit for local and foreign tourists alike and we all plunge into its clear waters before checking out the glorious dunes that this little oasis clings to the edge of. Sunsets in the Sahara are unbeatable as the sand reflects a thousand shades of amber and ash before being tucked to sleep by the bright, bold whisper of the Milky Way.
The rare gentleness of the dawn in an oasis is glorious and all is hushed in the jungle of palms. Steam rises from theJumping off old Roman fort into a sea of sand
complex irrigation systems that bring the desert to life and we gulp down a simple breakfast of bread and hot milk and coffee before we’re off to the quad rental man. Antiquity and modernity are close companions in North Africa and our family opts to skip on the camels to get to the famed Ksar a bit faster. Our guide is a lovely young man who’s smitten with our little Canadian-Tunisian children… helmets are optional and we jump bare-headed onto the backs of the modern day desert machines and are pleasantly surprised by the fun of the trail in the early morning light. We climb the final hill and see the remnants of Ksar Ghilane perched atop the dunes. Like a big old chunk of history, bolted down and unmovable against centuries of sand and time… tribes and rulers, conquests and eras have marched right on by and these walls just keep sitting there, guarding the secrets of a life so few on this planet will ever know, much less understand. Our children are giddy with the thrill of exploration but I feel almost speechless as I look around at the sea of sand, as far as my eyes can see. I laugh with our gracious guide… “something so normal for you, and so different for us.” He smiles and must find our dumbfoundedness amusing.
The mystery is so intense, so wonderful, so all-together awe-inspiring. We question, we wonder, we marvel but the stones don’t speak and the sand stays silent. One must respect the deep, vast mystery of the Sahara. We smile, hearts full…Roaring over the dunes with Daddy. Off exploring the Sahara Natural hot spring that makes for a great place to take a swim. The pool is meters from the dunes Camping in the Oasis