DouzTunisia. Referred to as the "Gateway to the Sahara", Douz is a popular destination for tourists looking to experience the desert, either by camel or four-wheel drive.
The town of Douz has grown up around a large palm oasis that stands on the northern fringe of the Sahara. Surrounded by little other than desert and dry scrub land, historically it was an important stop on the trans-Saharan caravan routes. Today tourists come in numbers, many on organized coach tours from the coastal resorts, to get a taste of the mighty Sahara for themselves.
By car, Douz is about 1hr30m drive west of Matmata on a good road, or 2hr to the east of Tozeur. Much of the drive from Tozeur is along a causeway that crosses the Chott El-Jerid, a vast lake covered in a thick crust of dried salt.
- The annual International Festival of the Sahara. Held towards the end of each year, the four day festival showcases the local desert culture, including camel and horse riding displays, poetry readings and traditional music and dance.
- The Museum of the Sahara - a small but interesting collection portraying traditional Saharan life where the founder and curator, who's also a popular local poet, will courteously and patiently give you a fascinating tour of the collection. Open Tu-Su 9:30AM-4:30PM.
- Take a camel trip out into the Sahara with one of the many tour operators based in the town center.
- Other tours into the desert can be arranged, including by motorbike or 4-Wheel-Drive, usually by the same tour operators.
- Visit the Chott al-Jerid. A vast dry salt lake with a thick crust of salt which sparkles in the sun. Look closely and you may see some mirages.
Through the main square, where all the tourist wares are on display, and into the small bustling local market for fruit and veg, dates and olives, bread etc for your daily picnic.
You can find good restaurants and cafés in Douz, (e.g. café of glissia "grandes dunes in "zone touristique"") or eat in hotels. There are 6 large hotels in Douz in the tourist zone, or you could even go into the desert and make the sand bread "Mella" with dates!
Mint tea is a local speciality.
If you take an overnight camel trek, you will get to sleep out in the desert (and hence save the cost of a night's accommodation!). Be warned though - despite pictures in the tour offices of luxury Bedouin style tents, in practice the shelter is somewhat more basic and bathroom facilities may be somewhat primitive. Still, it is a great experience with campfire, ad hoc drumming/dancing sessions, fire-baked flat bread for breakfast and camel treks back to town the following morning.
- Hotel 20 Mars is reasonably priced, very clean and relaxed, with simpler rooms downstairs and en-suite rooms on the first-floor all around a cool, pretty courtyard for breakfast, snacks and games of chess.