1001 Tales of The Arabian Nights have always enthralled me. They evoke images of exotic landscapes of the Middle East and convey a great sense of adventure that envelop you from the very beginning.
Emerald oasis, ancient civilizations, gentle camels, labyrinthine streets full of colorful bazaars, beautiful bellydancers, the alluring perfume of the Jasmine and the fragance of mint tea…Tunisia was the perfect setting to live my own tale.
Like one of those ancient folktales, our trip to Tunisia was full of adventures, mystery and romance. This is the story of how the driest place on earth profoundly changed my life.
Douz the gateway to the Sahara, the gateway to myself
With more than 500,000 palm trees Douz, the largest oasis in western Tunisia, wasn´t only the door to the desert, it was also the gateway to a personal discovery. It became the entrance of a fascinating journey to myself.
We had spent such a wonderful time aboard a 4×4 jeep driving over steep sand dunes in the desert. Our guide then, rolled down the window and said: “I have a surprise for you. Can you see those camels over there? They´re going to take you to see the greatness of the desert”.
We had a wonderful guide who not only made this experience possible but also invited us to a male circumcision ceremony where we got a very warm and memorable welcome by his family and friends. But, well, this is another story…
Two bedouins awaited us with their camels. They kindly provided us with a turban-like cloth called tagelmust to protect us from the sun and sand. “Now you look Lawrence of Arabia my friends” said one them with a big smile on his face.
The four of us started the ride through the endless dunes of the Sahara. On the back of the camel everything looked different. The golden sunlight made this corner of the world even more magical. How could the merciless and unforgiving desert also be the most extraordinary places on earth? Little by little, something was awakening inside me.
The camel hooves through the sand sounded like music in the vast expanse of emptiness. I was discovering the pleasure of hearing and feeling the silence. I had never appreciated it before.
Suddlenly, I remembered the conversation I had had with the old man next to me on the plane to Tunisia. “I´m 78 years old and I´ve spent my whole life travelling. Nothing quite compare to the immense, unlimited sense of freedom that travelling brings you” he said. His words totally made sense in that moment.
My thoughts were then interrupted. The glimpse of a group of turbaned men galloping their horses right towards us caught my attention.
The image of them riding in a cloud of golden dust ignited my curiosity. Who were them? Where were they coming from? Why were they approching us? In a matter of seconds, we would be surrounded by these mysterious horsemen.
The riders started talking and laughing with our two bedouins guides. One of them pulled his turban down and said: “Have you ever seen a desert fox before?” and he handed it to me. It was such a beautiful creature with long, bat-like ears. He explained it could live for long periods of time without water and that his thick fur could protect him during the chilly nights in desert.
As soon as they came they left. I looked at them fading into the distance and a strong desire of joining them overcame me. They symbolized the unknown, the mysterous and exotic. I realized I wanted to expand my horizons, live a life full of passion and adventure, and longed for that sense of freedom the old man tried to describe on the plane. I had already discovered the power of the world WANDERLUST.
As if we had always known each other, the two beduoins and us sat on the soft sand to enjoy the sunset. The dunes seemed to be on fire as the sun peeked behind the horizon.
Despite that image of desolation and penetrating solutide the Sahara may project, it´s only on the surface. The desert is full of life and can also bring you to life as in my case.