Ksar Ghilane, the southernmost of Tunisian oases, was our next destination. Located at the edge of Sahara desert and with some Roman ruins nearby, this date palm oasis is a great place to explore the desert.
After a late arrival the night before, we got off to a late start, and started the day by walking around the square. A few seniors formed two parties playing dominoes.
|Mehari Hotel pool||Relaxing on the square||Dominoes||Dominoes||Minaret|
The oasis of Ksar Ghilane is over 140 km from Douz by paved road. Our driver cut it off a bit by traveling on a dirt road, which may have saved some miles but certainly not time. It sure brought some sense of adventure. We picked up a hitchhiking soldier armed with a military rifle at a lone snack store along the road, and dropped him off a few miles farther south near his checkpoint. There was military presence south of Douz on all roads heading into the Sahara to prevent intrusions from Libya and Algeria, and in fact traveling south of Ksar Ghilane would have required a special permit. As we approached the oasis, the Landcruiser started overheating...
|Gas station attendant and our driver||Duel||WC||Store clerk||Cerastes cerastes||Shepherd dog and its goats|
Having arrived to the oasis during the hottest time of the day, with the temperatures running close to 90F (32C) in the early June, we took a leisurely walk to explore a date palm grove and its desert edge, and then cooled down in a snack bar by the hot springs.
|Camel station||Date palms||Date palms in BW||Geometry of a grove||Tractor||Donkeys in the Sahara|
|Sparse growth||Donkey||Dead raven||Desert transportation||Camel|
|Shootout||Thirst||Satisfying thirst||Wide-angle lens Irina||Beer can||Red channel palms|
|Colorful palms||Palmbrella||Sahara from above||Tracks in the desert||Rider on a Arabian horse|
|Dates||Donkey drawn carriage|
In the late afternoon, we took a camel ride to the actual Ksar Ghilane (Fort Ghilane), ruins of a Roman fortress about two miles from the oasis. The ride took an hour following the walking pace of the camel guide and his route finding across the sand dunes. The sun was low enough to start casting shadows on the dunes. While the camel did not make the most comfortable platform for taking pictures, it was a great experience.
|Riding||Life in the desert||Burning sun||Shadow caravan|
|Caravan shadows||Riding high||Our track in the desert||Rest after the walk|
The actual Ksar ("castle") Ghilane are remains of a fortress dating back to the Romans. The fortress rises above the surrounding desert and it was an amazing place in the setting sun.
|Resting camels||Irina and my shadow among the ruins||Desert fort||Our guide||Sand patterns||Irina|
|Next batch||Filling up with sand||Shadow on the ripples|
We saddled the camels again and they strolled back under us as the sun set. The sand around has a very distinct pink tone and the setting sun magnified the hue. We reached the oasis a few minutes after the sunset, and spent the night in a stylish Berber tent, a collection of which is run as a hotel for the visiting tourists.
|Ready for boarding||A boy and his camels||Irina riding|
|Last sun rays||Sunset||Done for the day|
I got up before the sunset and headed among the sand dunes to catch the photogenic low light. I ended up almost catching a camel too. Back at the tent, it was time to pack up and move on.
|Patterns||Beetle on the move||Ripples of sand||Bird tracks||Boobs||Boobs|
|Survivor||My shadow||Shadow patterns||Life in the sand||Surprise find|
|Humps||Sparse feed||Camel snacking||King of the desert||ATVs||Our tent|
|Tent interior||Date u-pick||Camels on the road||Donkey carriage and its passengers|