A shimmering mirage awaits you in the Tunisian Sahara - nestled at its own oasis in the midst of the desert, offering its charm and shade, its spring and the whispering waters of its seguias: Pansea welcomes you to this hospitable land of colours and contrasts, spices and scents.
Located southeast of Zaafrane, in the southern part of Tunisia, accessible by 4x4 from Djerba (3 hours), Douz and Tozeur (4 hours), the Pansea Ksar Ghilane is a refreshing stop after the first waves of the Erg, a place to wonder at the softness of the dunes, the majesty of the mountains, the transparency of the desert nights, the vivacity of that which is deceptively barren.
From the outside they look like regular tents; inside they are like hotel rooms with canvas walls. Each of the 60 large linen tents (28 sq.m. of interior space) is furnished with a double bed, comfy mattress and proper bed linen; not a sleeping bag in sight! There is a small sitting area, and furniture of stylish wrought iron with glass-topped tables. Traditional kilims cover the floor and hang from the walls, as do electric lights (whose power supply is, at times, erratic). Leading off the main area, but still within your tent, is a private washing cubicle, with toilet, sink and a powerful shower with hot water. The complimentary mineral water is a thoughtful touch. The tents have air conditioning units for summer which double as heating for the cooler months; for those chilly winter nights you'll find further blankets in your tent’s own wardrobe.
The hotel has its own restaurant, which offers an à la carte or buffet menu. The cuisine is a mix of Tunisian and French - brochettes, beef stews, salads of tuna with caper and peppers, or triangular briks (pastries) stuffed with egg and parsley. And the ambience can best be described as 'Bedouin chic', with cushion-covered stone benches and glimmering wrought-iron lanterns. But if you are here only one night it’s more fun to eat outside, sitting cross-legged in traditional goat-hair tents. Your Bedouin hosts may serve up agneau de gargoulette, a nomad lamb dish cooked in clay jars which have been heated in the sand, and which are then opened by the sword-wielding cook and served on a bed of couscous. You can also watch them making pain de sable (sand bread) in the time-honoured way, baking the dough under a pie of sand which has been heated by a fire of tamarisk branches.
Apart from lolling by the pool, most of the camp’s activities centre around camel treks into the surrounding desert landscape. Most accessible is the Roman fort 3 km (1 hour) northwest of the camp; full day-trips take you into the huge, billowing dunes of the Great Eastern Erg. If you don't fancy camels, there are horse rides on offer, or you can just head into the dunes on foot - they begin right outside the camp. Do take plenty of water and sun protection, and start early. If you have access to a 4x4 and driver, you can head north to the eerie salt pans of Chott el Jerid near Douz, where scenes of The English Patient were shot; or explore the villages between the desert and the coast such as hill-top Chenini, or the old Berber ghorfas (ancient pod-like granaries) near Tataouine where the early Star Wars movies were filmed. The more adventurous can hire motorbikes from a centre near the hotel.
(Tunis, El Kef, Kairouan, Tozeur, Ksar Ghilane, Tataouine, Sfax, Sousse)
TUNISIA Taking in all of the classic Roman sites along with the great architecture of the south.
(Tozeur, Douz, Ksar Ghilane)
TUNISIA Admire Tunisian Sahara desert in Tozeur, Oases and springs
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