Customer Review

Marilyn (Tunisia Sahara Camel Trek)

Countries visitedTunisia
Date of tourApril 2024

When I reminisce over my sojourn to the Tunisian Grand Erg Oriental with my guide, Bechir and 2 dromedaries, Sheriff and Lagamon, the memories leave me introspective and else where – not in the present.

To begin, the transfer from Djerba Airport to The Vincci Hotel, then to Matmata and finally to Sabria was narrated by Mohammed my guide and driver – (whose driving skills are matched only by the Indianapolis 500 Race car drivers). His interesting historical, religious and cultural discussion on Djerba Island, the small towns we traveled through, the Troglodytes Homes, his love of the desert area, AND the 40 mph wind and sand storms that arose as we drove in the desert and slowed traffic down because of low/no visibility – which is what we experienced!!

Arriving at Sabria, late afternoon, we were met by Bechir, my guide and camel driver. With luggage secured on Sheriff – my dromedary, Bechir took the reins and I rode Sheriff, while he walked in the wind and sand storm for the next 2 hours. After which, Bechir stopped and ordered the camels to kneel so I might descend from Sheriff as this place (next to a large bush) was to be our first night’s camp site. I was wondering where Bir Elajimni was, but thought we did”nt reach it in time before night fall.

Bechir unloads the camels, sends me to look for fire wood, sets up my tent then begins to prepare to cook for dinner!! As the fire blazes, Chef Bechir puts the vegetables, water, garlic, tumeric and lamb into a pot and onto the fire. Next, he begins the couscous and adds Olive oil and salt and sets this pot over the first. Bechir is signing all the while he prepares the food. A high melodic sweet voice that sends me into another universe. I’m not sure if these songs were chants, prayers, childhood rhymes, etc. Thus, the language difference.

Dinner ready, we eat the hot steaming vittles and are satiated and satisfied and tired. But the Chef is not through – he presents fresh dates and cookies and tea for dessert.

Bechir’s cooking remains consistent, and delicious throughout the Trec – but breakfast was an exception!! You might imagine my surprise when I watched him kneed dough into a round disk and place the disc directly onto the morning fire, (onto hot coals) and then cover the bread up with the remaining hot coals!! Left to bake about 20-30 minutes and Voila – Breakfast Bread. I’ve learned since it’s called? “Khobz el Mella. He then presents a dish with olive oil and fig preserves to dip the bread in, and has hard boiled eggs in the coffee pot!!! Yum, Yum.

I’m back in the saddle the next morning and Bechir is leading, walking next to Sheriff. I still never saw Bir Elajimni or Bir Aoun, or Chott Hajria for that matter. But early into that morning, Bechir ordered the camels to stop and kneel and he showed me a dune with rocks protruding from the sand. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be Desert Roses – crystal minerals. Bechir found several for me which I kept.

I believe we were traveling through the Grand Erg Oriental portion of the Sahara because Sabria is west of Doug, and south east of the Chott el Djerid. Not sure what the Bir Marzouk was – I assumed all these places were Oases. My understanding of what an oasis was – where water and date palm tress existed, etc.. Perhaps I was naive in this thinking, and that these places are in fact undiscripted areas within the desert.

The closest place to what might have been described as an oasis was on the morning of the 23rd, Bechir lead us to a place where there was a well and a small mosque – no date palms though.. Bechir sang as he hoisted water from the well to water the camels, and then we explored the mosque. The location that my cell phone uses to identify any pictures taken in the desert is Sabria and Faouar.

PSSS> A suggestion for those travelers that like to take Photographs – DO NOT TAKE AN EXPENSIVE CAMERA INTO THE DESERT – IT WILL BE RUINED. INSTEAD BUY LOTS OF INEXPENSIVE POINT AND SHOOT CAMERAS, AND/OR AN EXTRA CELL PHONE FOR PICTURES. FOR EXTENDED DESERT TRIPS, YOU’LL NEED SEVERAL FULLY CHARGED BATTERIES.

Weather wise, 1st night: very cold, 2nd night; it rained, last night: experienced a tornado – we had to tie all four water containers to the tent to stop it from flying away!. The desert was alive with various low gray green bushes and medium size shrubs. We saw dung beetles, snails, 3 different types of bird – one all white, one all yellow and one with a bit of blue, and a swift jackal.

On the final day of the Trek it was difficult to part with Bechir, who had become not just my guide, chef extra – ordinary, and leader, but I believe my friend. I would have liked to have known how we would have gotten along if I had lived in that area, and eventually conversed with him about our experience together later on. Yes, language was a barrier – but I believed we both tried to explore each other’s meanings and were successful to an extent in communicating.

Moving on to the final transfers, Nigel was as professional as they come. A native from Douz he was a pleasure. It was also comforting to have him stay over in Sfax to complete my transfer to Mahdia.

In conclusion, it is my belief that to truly know a country, one must travel the entire distance between boarders and in all four directions. My travels in Tunisia have taken me to Djerba, Matmata, Sabria, Mahdia, Tunis, Dougga, Bulla Regia, Kairouan, El Jem and Monastir. When I return I plan to concentrate traveling beginning in the south – Chott el Djerd and along the western boarder north and then northeast to Bizerte and Cape Bon.

Joshua, THANK YOU for working with me to make this Trip happen

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About the author

Joshua Mok has been living in Tunisia since 2016. He has traveled extensively throughout the country, and has firsthand experience with the language, people, and culture of North Africa. It is his passion to introduce to others some of the best destinations in North Africa that he has experienced.

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