Douiret: Sahara trip day 4
Overnight in the camp was an interesting experience. The one and only light in our tent was powered by the camps generator, which was switched off about 11pm. Of course the need to go for a wee in the middle of the night is directly correlated with how difficult it is to get to the loo. Easy trip (ie en-suite room) = no need to go, difficult trip = need to go!! So at 2am we had to find the torch and head off to the toilet block. One good thing was that due to the lack of ambient light in the desert we had fun star gazing.
As we had a long drive today we were up early. As the crow flies (and 4x4’s travel) our next destination was not that far, but we needed to follow tarmacked roads which meant a much longer trip. Once again the camels were out and about.
Come to wave us goodbye
The best bush for miles around!!
On our way through Matmata we spotted an old man hitchhiking. We had read that in this region it was expected that you give people a lift if you have the space. As we stopped a young man on a scooter drew up alongside once again offering his services as a guide. We pointed out we were just offering the old man a lift. He wanted to go to Toujane which was on our way. So off we went with our hitchhiker on the back seat. Unfortunately our French and Arabic are not very good and he spoke no English so it was a fairly quiet journey!! The road to Toujane was rather twisty. Just before Toujane, in the middle of nowhere, our hitchhiker requested we stop. We didn’t know if this was where he wanted to be or he had had enough of Stephen’s driving!! (to be fair to Stephen there was a hut in the valley that he pointed to).
The town of Toujane was rather a surprise, it was a beautiful mountainside village.
It had the customary goat farming
The main industry in Toujane was carpet making. Almost every house on the road through the town was trying to sell carpets.
As we were making good time we decided to take a slight detour on one of the scenic roads. The road signs indicated the hill was 10%, but we are pretty sure it was steeper than that. Even though we were moving we had to put the car in first gear to get up the hill! The route was OK but not really that scenic.
Our first real stop of the day was at Ksar Ouled Soltane. This is south of Tatouine. A Ksar is a fortified granary built by the Berbers. The structures are made up of ghorfas which are like caves where the grain is stored. There is only one entrance into a Ksar and it was often built in a good defensive position. In times of food shortages the guardian of the Ksar (normally the local religious figure) would ration what was taken out of the ghorfas. Each family would have their own ghorfa.
Ksar Ouled Soltane
We loved it here, there was no one else about and we could wander un-disturbed. Well apart from one young man who had converted one of the ghorfas into a gallery to sell his watercolours. To his credit he didn’t hassle us and asked politely if we would view his paintings. Unfortunately we didn’t like the paintings, but he did take a picture of us in the Ksar.
Thanks to the budding artist at Ksar Ouled Soltane.
Over the last couple of days our sense of direction had been going really well. Today it deserted us and we headed off up the wrong road. Luckily we realised it was the wrong road relatively quickly as the road ended! We turned round and took the only other road possible. This road took us to Ksar Ezzahra. As we entered the Ksar the locals that were sat around disappeared so we had the place to ourselves.
As we got into the car one of the workmen nearby asked (in French) if we were French or German. He was very surprised when Anne replied that we were English. He welcomed us to Tunisia, at this point our French had reached its limit. We really must learn more French so we can have longer conversations.
After Ezzahra we had planned to stop in Chenini but the tour guide attempting to stop our car by standing in the middle of the road put us off. On the way out of the new town we stopped to take a photo of the old town of Chenini. At that point Anne was accosted by yet another tour guide, there was no way we were going to be able to explore this place on our own, so we decided to drive on.
The view of Chenini
Chenini from a safe distance – no tour guides here!!!
We carried on to our “cave” hotel which was in Douiret. The old town of Douiret, like Chenini is built into the mountainside. The town had been abandoned, but slowly people are moving back and there are now two cave hotels here. The village was absolutely silent and very peaceful.
Our hotel was next door to the white Mosque, the other hotel is the building on the bottom right of the picture, which is the nearest we could get the car.
Once we had recovered from climbing the stairs up to the hotel (we were feeling rather achy from the camel ride yesterday) we checked in. The room/cave was amazing
As was the view from the front of the hotel
The view from the front of the hotel – well caves don’t have windows you know!!
Unfortunately we really did ache from our camel ride so we only managed a short walk around the old village. This was what we enjoy, a wander around with no-one else about. A little later Anne popped down to the car for a book. On her way back she met a couple of Tunisian men. She greeted them in Arabic at which point they asked where she came from, when they realised she was English they welcomed her to Tunisia in English. Most Tunisians are very welcoming, it’s just a shame the tour guides are so aggressive!!
Once again we were the only guests staying tonight. We had arranged Dinner at the hotel, the meal was simple but filling. As we were tired an early night was called for.
We slept very well in our warm dry cave hotel. Night night J