A Place to Stay. Campement Zmela, Tunisian Sahara.
I recently spent a few days on a trip around Tunisia, visiting some interesting places away from the usual Touristy areas.
We climbed into our 4x4s and drove along the road, then our driver suddenly turned off, and the road dwindled away until it was replaced by sand, and we set off into the Sahara.
You mustn’t call it the Sahara Desert because Sahara is a Berber word that means Sahara. So when people say Sahara Desert, they are calling it Desert Desert. I thought you’d be interested to know that!
We lurched and shook along a terrible non-road through the desert for what seemed like hours. The sandy track cut through what looked like identical shrubs and sand dunes stretching away as far as the eye could see, but there were no signs of any kind. But Buba, our excellent Berber driver knew every turning and pothole.
Once he stopped and backed up, then went along another track. Goodness knows how he knew where he was!
Eventually, bumped to bits and relieved, we arrived at the Campement Zmela, in the middle of nowhere.
This was my first taste of camping. No it wasn’t glamping.
We all chose a tent. There were no modern facilities at all in the tents. I had a candle stuck in a pot of sand with a box of matches next to it. My tent had a little hump of sand at the front with a shrub growing on the top, so I felt sure that I could identify it easily.
After dumping our luggage, we waded through the sand to the bar/restaurant, and gratefully accepted a beer or a glass of wine, which we drank sitting outside as the sun set in the clear sky and the sky filled with an unpolluted view of bright stars that almost seemed as though you could reach up and touch them. You could almost hear the silence. We spoke quietly as it seemed a shame to spoilt it.
Before dinner we were summonsed to an enclosure where a Berber demonstrated how they made their flatbread on a fire, buried in the flames, while we sat in a circle and sipped our drinks. It was huge and was served in portions with our dinner.
The men who work at the camp are sweeping, sweeping all the time, and they try to keep the doors shut.
We had to remove our shoes before going into the long dining-room.
Dinner was nibblies, then a fish soup, followed by a crispy stuffed, rolled omelette called a brik, and salad. Everything was freshly made in the kitchen.
The toilet/shower facilities are constantly being cleaned and checked. They have electricity and hot and cold running water, right in the desert! The lights stay on all night.
Outside, we relaxed, drinking wine or beer and enjoying the peace and the clear sky. Then we went to bed quite early as everyone wanted to get up at dawn to admire the sunrise.
The temperature dropped as the sun went down, but it wasn’t cold.
Although it wasn’t my idea of a perfect Place to Stay, I have to admit that, tucked under my duvet and blanket, I had one of the best, most peaceful night’s sleep that I’ve had for a long time.
I awoke early and refreshed and stepped out of my tent to go for a shower. And I noticed a trail of footprints in the sand. What had walked past my tent in the night? A Desert Fox? Who knows?
We all sat outside with our coffee and watched the big red sun pop up over the horizon.
After a lovely fresh breakfast we left. And the road didn’t seem so long or uncomfortable the 2nd time along it.
Would I go to Campement Zmela again?
Yes I would. The place was immaculate, the staff were really welcoming and nothing was too much bother.
The food and drink were delicious and the scenery was beautiful.
I’d like to spend longer there, to relax in silence and completely shake off all the problems of our ‘civilised’ world.
Agence : Tél : +216 75 470 620 | Fax : +216 75 470 622
Campement : Tél : +216 94 382 034 et +216 24 806 191
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information on Tunisia, www.discovertunisia.com
- Tunisair flies daily either from Heathrow Terminal 4 (Sundays, Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays) and from Gatwick South Terminal (Mondays, Wednesday & Thursdays)
- Flight duration around 2h.45mn
- £1.00 = 4.00 TND
- All year round mild temperature with lots of sun
- Local cuisine influenced by French & Italian food plus several local pleasant wines (among the best Tunisian export)