This trip is the start phase of our project - very exciting, and certainly a good training for us. How to drive the car in sand dunes, how to get along with the equipment, and will the car be safely parked? We will find out.... Drifting easily through endless sand horizons ...and getting severely stuck in the very next minute: Tunisia became the test unit for our Sahara trips through North Africa. All in all we drove 4.000 km on this trip with appr. 3.000 km in Tunisia. We did not proceed any further than Ksar Ghilane, since the military zone in the deep South was not allowed to be entered without a guide. As we soon found out, it was not necessary to go any further into the Sahara to enjoy the real desert feeling.
Campingplatz Dreiländereck; "German Campingplatz". With our rooftent on top of our Landy we are quite exotic on this typical German campground. Late arrival at 21.00
Grande Navi Veloci; Grimaldi Ferry (Cabin). A little tricky to find the quay: look out for small GNV signposts, ferry takes 24h, we had a cabin.
Bordj Cedria, Hammam Lif, nice place, acceptable showers. Late arrival, we did not like the inner city places and decided to drive out of Tunis: good decision! Everything very exciting!
Camp Hotel Jasmin, cold showers included. Nice garden camping under date palms: a hot spot with cold showers for campers at the coast. Go there!
Camping Desert Club Tozeur, Nice place; not so nice toilets. Stop-over and shopping in Gafsa. The Desert Club is where you go on your camping trip in Tunisia. Nice atmosphere, very nice people.
Camping Desert Club. Desert tour to Star Wars settings - and back via Nefta, first serious dunes. We finally managed to climb up a very high dune. Standing on the top we had a severe panic attack when we saw how steep the other side was.
Camping Desert Club. Oasis tour at the Algerian boarder: Chebika, Tamerza and Mides: magnificent. Got severly stuck with our Landy in a waterhole that I somehow overlooked... A local Landcruiser was very helpful.
Camping Desert Club. Hiking in Seldja Gorge, muddy water, beautiful lookouts and dark railway tunnels: beautiful!
Douz Camping Desert Club: Very nice, small restaurant, beer. Driving through Chott el Jerid is a highlight. It was extremely hot. We had a lovely afternoon at the pool in one of the 5star hotels in Douz (20TD)
Douz Camping Desert Club. Dune driving training in the morning: Fix a point at the horizon and try to get there - but stay in sight of the oasis...! Some major dig-outs. Around noon till late afternoon: 36°C in the shaddow 55°C in the sun. Spend the hot hours in the camp, Dinner in a nice restaurant in Douz, Later a beer in a hotel bar on the way back to our camp: at night Ramada drums till 4 a.m. A lovely day.
Ksar Ghilane Camp, desert maniacs and bus tourists meet here. Hot springs, restaurant: OK
We took the street out of Douz. After the desert cafe we left the street to follow a pad through a qued and some dunes. The pad hits the pipeline pad at Bir Soltane from where it goes straight to Ksar Ghilane .
Douz Camping Desert Club. Convoy with Dick and Monique (Unimog) Markus & Ulla (TD4 Syncro) and Mike & Marion (TD4 Syncro). Minor Problems: Gear shift breaks of in a Syncro (only 2nd gear from that point on) Stabilizer breaks off in the other Syncro (with no effect). 110 km take about 10 hours: very nice.
Hotel Mahbrouk, Garden Camp. We take the route via Matmata (tourist buses!!) where the Sidi Driss cave hotel is a Star Wars tourist attraction. We went to the small village Beni Metir (recommended in our travelbook "Reise Knowhow") where we were the only ones and had a very nice time with some local boys showing us the caves. In Tataoine it starts raining and we use the side walls of our tent for the first time.
Hotel Sidi Slim Camp (all hotel facilities available including dinner buffet). A little run down but OK. The road to Djerba goes via Guermessa and Ksar Joumaa (very nice). We were happy to leave the windy and rainy mountains and see the sun again on Djerba.
Hotel Sidi Slim Camp
The Landy receives some grease (we detect corrosion at right front axle, when removing the cover)
Hotel Sidi Slim Camp: A lazy day on the beach
Mahdia Campsite. Ugly place with horror toilets. In Sfax we visit the big Medina. Sfax is huge and driving through it quite time consuming. Looking out for the camp in Mahdia took hours. Met Ingo and Ursula (Landy). Rain in the morning.
Hotel Jasmin Camp. Afternoon at the beach, delicious Maren-Noodles with tomato sauce for dinner :-)
Hammam Lif Camp, same as 24.9. Visit Carthage: magnificent! Made the appointment with Maher for the other day
Hotel Transatlantique (nightmare!). Dropped the car at the Magasins Generaux and completed documents in custom office, Walk through Tunis in the afternoon
Walk through the Medina in the morning and visit of the Bardo museum in the afternoon, late flight back
Colosseum in El Djem
Kairouan: Holy city in the muslim world
Kairouan - old mosque
Now it's real: we have arrived in the desert
Kind of like it: Between Ksar Ghilane and Douz
Dunes near Douz: where we start our dune driving training
The Chott el Jerid - a really hot place where a bus can get lost in the salt pan
"Luke Skywalker was here": Star Wars remainings near Tozeur
Tamerza Gorge near Tozeur: close to the Algerian border
A little unreal:
Sunset in the Sahara
Same place (early morning)
Market in Douz: Harissa became one of our favourite spices
Market in Douz
Sheep with uncertain future
Father & Son
Backyard in the Old town in Douz
After a hard day :-)
Camp in Touzeur with tons of ripe dates just over our heads (very delicious on the first day, OK on the second day, not so exiting any more on the third day....)
Bardo Museum in Tunis: here they show what they dug out in Carthage - very impressive.
Car Parking: Process, Costs & Contact Details
This was the biggest challenge for us before we even started. Would the concept fly? Would it be possible to store away the car safely in an Arabian country for 6 months and organize this from Germany? Tunisian regulations for cars are rather strict: After 3 months the car has to leave the country. Upon entering Tunisia the vehicle is stamped into the owner's passport (!) which makes it impossible to drop the car and leave by plane - unless you deposit the car at the Tunisian customs. From Germany we contacted the main customs office in english by fax. The answer was in French language but the message was positive! The fax said that we could deposit our car at the main customs in Tunis for 6 months under following conditions:
In order to go through the formalities quickly, you should prepare:
For those documents that you receive at the La Goulette customs upon arrival, a copy shop on the other side of the street is available at the main customs office.
Having spent our first night in Bordj Cedria we started looking out for the main customs office in Tunis the other morning. The intention was to find out potential problems at the start of the trip rather than at the very end. The office is located in 42, Avenue la Republique (under the fly-over). Here all formalities have to be passed. The car is then parked at the Magasins Generaux around the corner in 3, Rue Amara Soltani. Just as we entered the office, Maher, a local guy approached us and offered to help (this is a very normal and reproducible affair in Tunisia). As nobody but the chef at the customs office spoke English, we accepted. Maher was really helpful. We found out that parking the car for 6 months is a normal routine. We prepared as much as we could and agreed with Maher to call him on his mobile phone (00216) 23045074 when we would come back, three weeks later to complete the formalities together and drop the car
Maher, Maren and Landy at the Magasins Generaux
Three weeks later, at the end of the trip, the procedure was not a problem. We started at the Magasins Generaux to generate the missing documents, payed the caution (cash required!) and then dropped the car plus keys after the equipment and existing damages (dents) had been listed up. Then we went to the customs office: the car was stamped out the passport and after 2 hours we were done!
Costs: Total costs accumulated to ~900,- TD (520.- €) including official costs (~800,- TD) for 6 months parking, plus administration and Baksheesh (100,- TD). Of cause Maher expected a "compensation" at the end. We gave him 45,- TD. Later we gave him another 40,- TD for the arrangement to park the car under a roof. Of course it was under the open sky when we picked it up 6 month later, but that's already part of the Libya trip.... Well, we learned that Baksheesh is (1) never enough and that (2) it is not clever to pay it in advance ;-).
Storage Tunisia: Magasins Généraux & Entrepôt Réel de Tunisie
PS: GPS handhelds should be registered upon entry in La Goulette. The document is available on the ferry There is a document in the internet that we filled in and faxed. We never received a reply. But when we entered the office in La Goulette they read our name and found our fax within 10 seconds on a shelf. 5 min later we were done. We heard from others who did not register their GPS that the process took much (!)longer.
Tunisia offers a wide range of different experiences. In Tunis everything goes between Yuppie life and tradition. Archeological highlights are here, but also spread over the entire country. In the city the streets are boasting with young people and one sees by far less women wearing headscarfs than one would see on Ehrenstrasse/Cologne. We could have spent weeks just visiting the Roman ruins but made a strict selection and decided to go and visit Karthago, and the Bardo Museum. Later on our tour we would see the colosseum of El Djem and the "Ksars" in the mountains between Tataouine and Medenine. In the South near Matmata we met Troglodytes (I always thought that was just a swearword), people that are still living in caves just 100 km away from the "all-inclusive" touristic culture on Djerba. In Tozeur near the Algerian border and especially in Douz, and Ksar Ghilane the Sahara was the most fascinating experience for us. Basically that's why we are here.
Tunisia is a lovely country and was excellent to start our tour.There is no real camping infrastructure. Travellers often meet each other several times on the rare and small spots in gardens or backyards of hotels (which is nice). The total length of the trip was appr. 4.000 km - a comfortable distance for 3 weeks. Ramadan means: no eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset which was OK - the almost absolute absence of beer before and after sunset was hard though!
We did not explore the "military area" in the very south because a guide was mandatory and permission was hard to get. For us this was just fine. As dune-rookies the desert around Tozeur, Douz and Ksar Ghilane was perfect to get the Sahara feeling, practice dune driving, and hang out in the sand. The Ramadan experience was very strong. Virtually nobody (besides some tourists) eats or drinks before sunset. The Muezzin and in many cases a big canon bang then changes everything at around 7 p.m. People that had rushed home a few minutes before, now start eating and drinking. The streets are almost empty for an hour. Policemen who can not abandon their places eat on the street using the bonnets of the policecars as dining tables. After a while everbody returns to the streets. An atmosphere of happiness and exitement then lingers on, long after the last muezzin call of the day is through. At night you here drums from various directions corresponding with each other...hard to sleep - hard to get hold of a decent beer in those days.