Photo Friday: Sahara Festival in Douz, Tunisia

Douz, Tunisia; Christmas 2006

Tunisia - Sahara Festival

In 2006 we were tossing up our options for how to spend Christmas and use up our annual holiday leave. We’d already done the whole white Christmas in the Austrian Alps two years previously and this year we did not feel up for the whole hoopla. So we decided to try to escape Christmas.

Tunisia seemed perfect. It is primarily a Muslim country and most Tunisians do not celebrate Christmas. (Jesus is acknowledged as a minor prophet in Islam but not as the son of God). We wanted to go and see the amazing Roman and medieval Arabic architecture, the beaches and cities, and desert culture. (I have previously written about the Roman ruins at Dougga).

We spent Christmas Day in Douz, an oasis town surrounded by date groves in the Sahara Desert. We went for the Sahara Festival, which is held over several days every December. It includes a range of entertainment – from music and dance to camel fights.

We didn’t manage to escape Christmas though. Deserts get cold at night and it was the middle of winter. Our bargain-basement hotel with cement floors was freezing and the blankets were thin. We snuggled up to one another all night and the next morning checked out early, resolved to stump up the cash for the five-star monstrosity on the edge of town.

The hotel was far more comfortable but we did have to endure an expensive and rather dreadful three-course Christmas dinner that included an omelette for my vegetarian boyfriend (now husband). There was a gingerbread cake set up outside the dining room that was prodded by children all day – and that was served up as our dessert!

The Sahara Festival was quite fun though and made for some great photographs. I also enjoyed our camel-back excursion into the desert and gorging myself on fresh dates.

This is my submission for Photo Friday, a weekly blogging feature run by Debbie of Delicious Baby. Please visit her site to see all this week’s submissions.

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  1. I’ve been dreaming of Tunisia!!!

    jen laceda’s last blog post..Marrakech Through My Daughter’s Eyes + Blog Love Awards Night

  2. For some reason, Africa is not on my radar in the past but more and more I have opened to the possibility. And now, your story has added to that curiosity. Thanks for sharing.

    Amy @ The Q Family’s last blog post..The White House from Afar

  3. What a great way to spend a xmas! I am still far from a visit to Africa, so let’s just say I’m truly enjoying this post!
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  4. Everyone loves a parade :) Very nice

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  5. What an interesting idea for Christmas! I’ll have to give that a try sometime as it can be wearing here in the US.

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  6. Some of our more memorable trips have come when we went somewhere to escape the excess surrounding some holidays here. We always enjoyed spending the weekend of US Thanksgiving in Canada, for instance.
    Looks like a great trip you had away from the holiday madness!

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  7. How long were you in Tunisia for? I hear its a great place and pretty cheap. It doesn’t see many tourists right?

    We were there for two weeks. It’s cheap if you get local transport and eat street food. It gets loads of tourists from Europe, especially on the coast because they have some nice beaches. Not so busy in mid-winter when we went but not truly off the beaten track. – Caitlin.

  8. Greetje says:

    Hi Caitlin, I found your blog while I was surfing for information about the Sahara Festival. We are planning to go there this year. As you have already been there, can you give me some tips? Like what to wear, where to go ( i.e. I red that nights are freezing, what about day time) which hotel
    I would love to hear from you.
    Thanks & regards, Greetje (Holland)

    Thanks for your comment. I’d be happy to help. There’s a lot to say so I might expand this into a post and then let you know when it’s published. – Caitlin.

  9. my dream to visit douz to see the festival of horse

  10. Escaping christmas from the family shenanigans is always worthwhile, one of my best Christmas’ ever was spent in Thailand. Having a BBQ on xmas day in glorious sunshine is odd, but so so satisfying. Tunisia looks fantastic, such wonderful colours!
    .-= Moonbadger´s last blog ..This summer take a flight to the UK…. =-.