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Review: Ksar Ghilane

City/Town/Region/Island

Tunisia

Experience the Sahara Desert

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2445 reviews

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  • Apr 2012
  • Husband

160 people found this review helpful

Ksar Ghilane is an oasis in the middle of nowhere where the stony desert meats the sandy desert. It is surrounded by sand dunes of the Great Eastern Erg. It is a long drive and you have to want to come here and tourists do in their droves to experience the Sahara Desert. We were no exception.



There is a small oasis with a Berber village housing people working in the oasis and those servicing the tourist industry. There are a few stone built houses with barrel roofs with animals and chickens running around. Donkeys are used for transport. The camels are solely for the use of tourists as a camel ride in the desert is a popular activity. No we didn’t try it – you can fall off a camel… There are no services in the village. There is a very basic shop selling dry and tinned foods but not bread or water. This has to be bought from the camps at a premium, so come well stocked up. The water is sandy and even using sterilising tablets is unsuitable for drinking.



We were stopping in Camp Yadis Ksar Ghilane at the end of the road through the oasis. In my ignorance I’d assumed it was the only accommodation in the oasis so was surprised when we drove past several other camps on our way. In fact the oasis is full of tents and tourists. Another illusion shattered.



Most people just spend one night at Ksar Ghilane. We decided to spend two nights there as we thought we would be grateful of a rest after the long drive the previous day. Apart from quad bikes or camel rides (neither of which interested us) there is little to do unless you enjoy lying by the pool (which we don’t).



We arranged to be driven to the remains of Roman fort, 3km across the sand dunes. There is a road to it but it often becomes impassable with blown sand. It was a bumpy ride over the sand dunes which stand 4-5’ high. We could see the sand being blown off the dunes.



The fort was built in a strategic position on top of slight rise to control the important watering point and to provide intelligence on nomad movements. The rough stone walls stand 10’ high and form a square with rounded corners. The blocks are not particularly well shaped, unlike most Roman buildings. A single arched doorway leads an open space which has a square building inside. We were reminded of the milecastles along Hadrian’s Wall.



The fort used later used by Berbers and we could see the remains of their houses built round the walls. Steps to the top of the walls gave views across the dunes.



Outside is palm covered shack which used to be a shop but is now empty. Most people visit on camel from the village. A few walk.



We were then taken for a drive across rocky desert to two other camps in the middle of the desert several kilometers south of Ksar Ghilane. We were surprised by amount of vegetation around even on the sand. There was jasmine, esparto grass, a shrub with small blue flowers loved by camelsIn a few places there were a few yellow, white and blue flowers adding a touch of colour to the desert. In a few weeks as the temperatures continue to rise these will have died. As we drove south we lost the sand dunes and it became stoney desert again. We were surprised by amount of vegetation around even on the sand. There was jasmine, esparto grass, a shrub with small blue flowers loved by camelsIn a few places there were a few yellow, white and blue flowers adding a touch of colour to the desert. In a few weeks as the temperatures continue to rise these will have died.



We saw a Berber shepherd out with a big flock of sheep and were told that he would collect all the sheep from village and be paid to look after them during the day. There were a few nomad tents scattered around and we could see across to the army control station at start of Military zone.



In retrospect we didn’t need to spend two nights at Ksar Ghilane. We could have done the Roman fort in the morning and later in the day driven to our next destination of Tataouine. The jury is out whether it was worth the long trip. It probably wasn’t although I think if we had taken the decision not to visit we might have regretted it afterwards.

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