With Tozeur behind we used 4x4s to travel in convoy up into the mountains, stopping at Chebika to see the natural oasis and waterfalls fed from springs. We hiked up further into the mountain and saw the source of the spring feeding the oasis. All the way up, and it is quite a tourist spot, local children were offering rocks split in half with various coloured crystals inside for only 1TD. Our guide for this section of the trip had a lazy eye which made it very difficult to look at him while he was speaking. The original Berber village of Chebika was destroyed during flooding in 1969. Only the walls of the houses remain while the new village was constructed a few kilometres down the road.This area, and further on towards Tamerza, features a large canyon. I have never been to the Grand Canyon in the US but a young English couple I met on the bus told me that I needn’t bother since this one in Tunisia was just as good. I have never seen anything as large or as impressive. It really brings GCSE geography lessons to life, showing the different layers of rock and how they have been shifted over the millennia to form the hills and valleys. From the top of one of the hills you can look out across the desert and see the Algerian boarder, not that there is anything to de-mark it other than the edge of an oasis.We left the 4x4s behind and travelled approximately seventy kilometres to the town of Gafsa, stopping for lunch in a five star hotel with the most stunning ceilings and room decoration. The hotel was built about four years ago but due to its location receives hardly any guests which is a shame as it is very well appointed. I can only guess that as the Tunisian tourist trade increases that business will pick up as I really can’t see how it is currently making any money.
The final leg of our two day Sahara adventure was upon us. A north easterly drive up the country brought us to the ancient city of Kairouan. Founded during the latter half of the first century AD the city of Kairouan is not Tunisia’s oldest Arab city but is also considered to be the fourth holiest city in the Islamic world, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Our coach stopped just outside the walls of the medina, close to the Great Mosque – one of the oldest, largest and most important mosques in the country. We didn’t have long at this stop, only fifteen minutes, which allowed me enough time to walk around the walls of the mosque taking photos of the minaret and the Lalla Rihana Gate. While we were there the call for afternoon prayers was sounded and I managed to capture a small section on my camera.
When our 15 minutes were up we were shuttled around to the other side of the medina where a carpet salesman proceeded to show us a vast array of Tunisian carpets. A small, 1 metre by 1.5 metre, carpet made of silk cost over £600! I decided not to make any purchases but that didn’t stop a few of the people on the tour flexing their credit cards.With the two day tour over I was returned to my hotel in the early evening. I was completely shattered but at the same time very satisfied that I had managed to see so much of Tunisia in such a short time. The south of the country is poor in money but rich in culture and tradition dating back many centuries.
Only three days of holiday left but stay tuned for Tunis, Carthage and Sidi Bou Said!