Sheets of the Sahara Desert’s undulating sand dunes stretch across north Africa, engulfing a large swathe of Tunisia into its sandy sea. This is the planet’s largest desert, after all. As the sun sets, the ripples transform into an endless canvas of shadows and waves of varying shades of orange and apricot.
The expanse is so great that its nearly impossible to know which way is north, south, east, or west. But the nomads who have called the Sahara home for centuries have this land embedded in their DNA.
Getting to the Sahara is half the fun. Pit stops in small towns are a invitation to experience Berber hospitality. Farmers around Douz sleep under the stars in tents just as their forefathers would, falling asleep to the sound of the desert winds.
The sound of banging drums, clapping, and a chorus of singing voices wafts into the night sky. Dancing feet kick the sand up into the darkness that wraps around the crackling fire. Any white noise of Tunisia’s lively cities is drowned out in the Sahara.
The shimmering lake, Chott El-Jerid, a blissful sight for weary desert travelers; hopes are dashed when they discover that its water is seeped in salt. The sun-baked banks are crusted with sodium and pools of water take on a bright red iron-induced tinge. It’s an other-worldly aesthetic.
The mountainous towns of Tamerza and Mides are oases. Fresh water springs nurture the flora and fauna. Waterfalls gently sprinkle from the canyons formed over the years by erosion. Cool your feet in the bubbling streams. One of these canyons was featured in the film The English Patient; it’s not hard to imagine why this was chosen as a timeless romantic landscape.
Movie fans will enjoy a sunset aperitivo at the Star Wars filming location in Ong Jmel near Nefta. Traditional patterned blankets flap in the languid air and leather shoes decked out in intricate embroidered patterns beckon to shoppers looking for a Tunisian gift in the souk.
Touzeur, right on the fringes of the Sahara, is a green jewel of fig trees and banana groves bursting from the dry land. Crack open a freshly plucked pomegranate to discover the ruby red seeds inside, or bite into a sweet date, a healthy and tasty snack. Thousands of palm trees are shady refuge from the heat. Textured bricks in diamond and chevron patterns decorate walls. Swirly-painted ceramics lay out on red rugs in the blazing sun. Henna plants are crushed into a paste to decorate women’s hands in curvy designs. Beautiful life exists even in difficult places.