Tunisia, Part 3: Berbers and Camels


Berber Villages

For the second part of the first day of the tour, we headed to a traditional Berber home. The original indigenous people of North Africa are called Berbers. They would build their homes into the ground with a central open space that provided access to the other rooms. By being built into the ground, the home’s temperature is regulated, and they are protected from high winds in the desert.

Expert lizard catcher

The men of the tribe would mostly be in charge of the livestock, and would migrate with the herd to find fresh grass and water. The women would be in charge of the household duties and handicrafts.


This woman was demonstrating how they would grind wheat. I tried it, and it was surprisingly hard to get your arm into a steady rhythm. I would slow down when I had to stretch out to the far end of the circle.

They would use their homes to provide water as well. The picture above shows how they would collect rain water from the side of the rock and it would drain into a well.

Above is a Kitchen. The pots along the wall would hold olive oil or spices or honey.

A storage room.

The bedroom. The fish is seen as a symbol of good luck and peace, and is similar to a horseshoe over the door.

The dining room.

Many families still live in dwellings such as these (I’m pretty sure not this specific one though). In fact, large Berber groups were living in Tunisia without the governments knowledge. I read a story, which I can’t find again, that one village made themselves known to a city after a flood or an earthquake had destroyed many of their homes. Before this, the government had no idea that they were there.

Like all indigenous people it seems, Berbers are kind of getting the short end of the stick these days. While they haven’t been the victims of small pox blankets, they are largely ignored and disrespected by governments. In Libya, schools are not allowed to teach the traditional Berber language. In Libya and Morocco, families are not allowed to name their children Berber names. But, in Algeria and Morocco (after 2011 reforms), Berber is recognized as one of the national languages.


Camel Riding in Douz

After the Berber village, we made a beeline for Douz to go camel riding in the gate of the Sahara desert. I was very much looking forward to this part. We got off the bus and were quickly pushed through to an assembly line of people handing us traditional ponchos and wrapping our heads in haphazard turbans. Then as a group we were escorted to the large mess of camels waiting to be ridden into the sunset.

These camels were all male because apparently it was starting to be the “make-little-camels” season. Something cool about camels during this time of year is that there is a an organ in their mouths that they inflate and use to make noise that shows dominance over other males and attracts females. Needless to say, these camels were doing this constantly. The organ is called a Dulla, if you were interested.


One camel managed to break away from his grouping and made a run for it. Much to the dismay of the rider on its back. The rider eventually fell off, but he was okay. It didn’t seem quite as scary as when Jeff and I found ourselves on the backs of two runaway horses in Turkey. 

One point of advice is that while you’ve already paid for the camel riding. The man leading your camels into the desert for an hour is only going to see pennies of it. It is worth the karma points of giving your personal guide a few dinars as a thank you for their work.



The camel riding was another part that we were happy to have Heythem there. In the beginning everyone had their picture taken. At the end of the ride, one could buy there photos for 4 Dinar. This was quite expensive compared to other things in Tunisia. Heythem, though, with the help of our tour guide got all three of ours for 4 dinars.

We spent the night in a huge hotel. Not all the light bulbs worked in our room. It was nice enough though and we had a bathtub! Our dinner was a buffet style of an assortment of Tunisian dishes. It was pretty good, and Heythem was sure to not even touch our bottle of wine (not included in the tour package).

We fell asleep hard knowing that we had another early day tomorrow to see the sunrise over the salt-flats.

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