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Hotel Pansea in Ksar Ghilane

by Tyler

First, the thank yous. Our luxury tent, complete with bathroom, table and chairs, shelves, blankets, and of course, beds, is a lot nicer than we are used to. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for making our stay here today possible, Mom (Jodi), Lian, and his lovely partner, Brooke!

Here is a quick glimpse of what our tent in Hotel Pansea is like…

Tent 901 Our Tent @ Hotel Pansea Our Tent @ Hotel Pansea Tara Sorting Photos

…compared to what we are used to.

Haunted Hotel Room Hotel Bathroom Hotel Bathroom

When we originally decided to splurge on Hotel Pansea as a Christmas gift to each other, we calculated it would use all of our donations to do so. Since our reservation was re-booked at a lower price, we have a bit extra. And so, please accept our deepest appreciation for your constant support online (and now off), Karen Walker. Your kind gift went to a different good use; we went on a camel ride today and it was a (very sandy) blast!

We start the morning the same way we ended the evening last night, by marveling at how our modern amenities are coupled seamlessly with the rustic feeling of tent living. The way the sun filters through the canvas with a natural, pale yellow light and the desert breeze makes the walls ripple, instantly makes us feel right at home. As we putter around before heading to breakfast, we talk about finding some land back home, and what it might be like to live in a yurt or a tent like this one when we get there.

We crawl out of our cozy home and make our way towards the dining room. Breakfast is a smorgasbord of delicious food: cereals and cold milk, crepes cooked to order with accompanying chocolate sauce, rolls and croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice, yogurts and fruit salad. Since we didn't get full board (includes lunch) and because we are still having trouble letting go of survival mode, we eat way more than perhaps we should, and then fill our pockets surreptitiously with clementines and hard-boiled eggs. Sufficiently stuffed, we leave to explore.

Hotel Pansea Pool Hotel Pansea Pool Hotel Pansea Landscaping Hotel Pansea We Are Not Tourists

Off we go, down the sandy path, past a campsite and a few souvenir shops all surrounding a hot spring. It looks inviting but we are more eager to see the desert. Finally we pass all the buildings and the path opens into vast rolling sand dunes.

Hot Spring Tents in the Desert Sahara Sand Dunes

Unlike the scrubby flat desert we passed to get here, this part, just past the oasis, is quintessential stereotypical Saharan sand, stretching for miles. We run, now barefoot, to play in the sand. Tara sinks her feet deeper and deeper into the cool yellow-orange substance, sending ripples resembling water down the side of the dune.

Tara in the Sahara Tara in the Sahara Tara in the Sahara Tara in the Sahara

I am enraptured by how fine the sand is, and how it now looks like fire when I throw and kick it into the sunny blue sky.

Tyler Kicking Sand Tyler Kicking Sand Tyler Kicking Sand Tyler Kicking Sand Tyler Throwing Sand Tyler Throwing Sand

A man on a quad soon notices our antics and drives up to invite us (read: tries to sell us) on an hour long extreme jaunt into the desert. We thank him but decline, saying we didn't come here to go dune hopping and that we prefer our calm playing in the sand. "Ah," he says, nodding his head and smiling. "You came for the quiet cry of the desert?" We laugh and agree.

Tara in the Sahara Tyler Running on a Sand Dune

"I am Bedouin; I understand" the man says, and introduces himself as Nazer. When we discover he does camel rides as well, we schedule an hour long trip at at what we now refer to as "picture time", the hour just before sunset when the light seems to be the best for snapping photos. Nazer agrees, and we return to our tent to relax until it's time to meet again.

We are halfway down the path leading out of the hotel for our camel ride when I presciently decide it would be wise to bring our camera case, so I run back to retrieve it. I'm certain the super-fine Saharan sand could easily destroy this valuable piece of gear.

Tyler Running to our Tent

Sure enough, when we arrive at the "station dromadaire" the wind has picked up and is blowing the sand into swirling clouds. We'll have to be very careful! Soon we are directed to the camels we will be riding. They have nice faces with long eyelashes and sweet-looking noses, but we soon discover that camels are not the loveliest creatures once you get to know them.

When camels yawn, they splay their mouths revealing an assortment of erratically spaced yellow teeth, filled with the greenish slime of food remains they haven't been able to swish out and swallow with their giant tongues. Their cheeks have hundreds of skin "flaps", draping down and wiggling away like engorged cilia.

The females who are in heat (this seems to be all of them) regularly gurgle at the males, lolling their bulbous tongues out of their mouths while making the weirdest blubbering noise I've ever heard. It looks like they're barfing up a stomach or lung, and sounds like a cross between a hookah and the final rotations of a plugged garbage disposal.

Tara and I spend our ride laughing and trying to mimic the hurgle-burble-gurgle noise, hoping to encourage more of the bizarre behavior. Instead they ignore us in favor of more appealing things: the tasty clumps of poop they munch off the ground, the tempting neighboring camel's butt to rub their face in, and the tantalizing stream of urine coming from the camel in front, begging to be licked. Gross!

As we mount our beasts, I quickly attach our camera case to the "horn" of my camel's saddle. While I am doing this, our guide is instructing them one by one to stand. When he gets to my camel, he tells me to hold on tight, and then with a sudden ungraceful lurch, the camel lifts its rear legs, sending me leaning forward at an angle usually reserved for roller coasters. The camel then abruptly pitches back as it lifts its front legs.

ThinkTank Digital Holster 10 On Camel

Suddenly we are several feet above the ground, sitting high atop our camels in the Sahara desert! Cool! After Tara's heaving ascent, she looks back at me, smiling, but unsure she likes the strange beast beneath her legs, or the one behind her whose smelly mouth is awfully close to her bare feet.

Tara Riding a Camel

As we pad out into the dunes I regularly pull our camera from the case just long enough to snap a photo and quickly put it away again.

Camel Ride Silhouette

An unfortunate Japanese girl who is riding on the camel up front unknowingly keeps hers out, snapping photos blithely in a whirlwind of sand. Just seconds later her camera's zoom fails and she spends the rest of the ride smacking and blowing on it, trying in vain to get it to work again. Poor thing!

Out in the desert, all is quiet. Sand blows across the dunes like snow across tall drifts. Crows perch, surveying the landscape, while others swoop in the air, enjoying gliding in the breezy currents. It is lovely. We enjoy the "quiet cry of the desert" for an hour, making our way out into the dunes and back.

Saharan Birds Sahara Sand Dunes Tara Riding a Camel Tyler Riding a Camel

With another roller coaster descent we flop to the ground and hop off our "ships of the desert". We just rode camels in the Sahara! Cool! Thanks again, Karen!

Camel Scratching Camel Guide Camel Guide

When it is time to go to dinner, the sun has set and our desert oasis is dark but for the dozens of glowing tents, lit from within. Following hundreds of lanterns along the sandy path that guides our way, we arrive in the dining room. Like last night, dinner is a huge buffet of salads, meats, pastas, and many other dishes to which we help ourselves to liberally. It is amazing how much food there is! After giving it some thought, we realize these are the first buffets we've been to since we left the US nine months ago.

Hotel Pansea Tents From Above

Though we are quickly slipping into this world of ease, comfort, and abundance, we haven't quite yet shaken our "survival" habits. We stuff our pockets full of rolls and fruit, laughing as we sneak out with a few "free" midnight snacks, dashing to the tent to watch X-Files before we go to bed.

Saharan Sunset
Previous Entry
Into the Desert
Next Entry
Hammama Mia!


It is so weird to read this stuff and think that it is you guys doing all this! You are in the Sahara desert?! How cool is that?!
Posted by Amanda on January 9th, 2010 at 9:01 AM
We feel exactly the same way! It is surreal reading our journals at times, we can hardly believe it ourselves :D
Posted by Tyler on January 9th, 2010 at 10:42 AM
It's true. Sometimes the things we do seem pretty ordinary at the time, but then we look back at our journal and go "Whoa! Did we really do that?!" :-)
Posted by Tara on January 9th, 2010 at 10:47 AM
We follow your diary with excitement. It is unbelievable what you experience and how much you suffer sometimes. Our thoughts are always with you!
Your writing style also improved a lot. It's a great pleasure to read your stories. And the pictures are marvelous (as long as the horizon stays horizontal ;)) For me the picture "red head playing with red sand" is one of the very best ever. (nr. 4253900271). So inspiring. Thank you so much!
Love you
Posted by Anonymous on January 9th, 2010 at 11:00 AM
Can it be possible that your "camel" is a dromedary? ;-)
Posted by yvesthebiker on January 9th, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Indeed it is! In latin: Camelus dromedarius :)
Posted by Tyler on January 9th, 2010 at 1:21 PM
Hi Tara and Tyler! Glad you got to go such a cool place! Awesome pics too! The gift was actually from Brooke too if you can give her some props in the post :) Thanks

Posted by lian on January 9th, 2010 at 4:28 PM
Sorry we didn't realize!! THANK YOU BROOKE! You now have props in the post. :-)

Love you!
Posted by Tara on January 10th, 2010 at 9:53 AM
Speaking of yurts, I don't know if you saw this article in the NY Times but it's a very good read.


You should also check out Cob homes as another type of low maintenance/ eco friendly home.
Posted by Mike on January 10th, 2010 at 11:03 AM
Ingrid - Thank you, as always for your kind words. We also really appreciate your constructive criticism and now we always think about the horizon when taking photos! love, T&T

Mike - Thank you for that article! We actually read it when you sent it to Tyler via bco but just never got around to letting you know. I don't know if we're hardcore enough to not have running hot water, but we were very inspired. Thank you!
Posted by Tara on January 10th, 2010 at 3:48 PM
Love the desert photos, and especially the account of your camel adventure. I really wanted to ride the camels when we visited Giza, but the "jockeys" there were a little creepy, and the pyramids and the Sphinx were too much of a distraction. Going on your "virtual ride" makes me feel like I've had that experience now. Thanks!
Posted by kwalker on January 11th, 2010 at 4:37 AM
Karen - Egypt sounds amazing, but we can definitely understand about the "creepy" jockeys. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thank YOU! It was your donation that made it possible!
Posted by Tara on January 14th, 2010 at 1:09 PM
Just wanted to let you know that I checked out cob homes and that I am totally sold on the idea. We now can't wait to make our own cob cottage! I knew my sculpture major would come in handy some day... :p
Posted by Tara on January 19th, 2010 at 7:31 AM
Tara- no problem, it was my pleasure! You mainly have my wife to thank though :)

If anyone else would like to know what we're talking about when we say cob (not corn!):


Posted by Mike on January 19th, 2010 at 11:38 AM
Hi ,

This is Kathy from R.O.C. Taiwan, i'm writing an introduction of Pansea Ksar Ghilane, this is a great resort and I would like to share this place with more Taiwanese people and hope it can be one of the best choices when they are planning on travel. I found many beautiful pictures of this resort from your website, just wondering if I may get the permission of using some of the pictures on my introduction? I will show the link and the name of your website on it too, thank you very much !


Kathy Huang
Posted by Kathy H. on April 19th, 2012 at 5:20 AM
Hi Kathy! Thank you for your interest in our photos. Please contact us using the contact button at the top of the page, and we'll be happy to discuss their usage with you.
Posted by Tara on April 20th, 2012 at 10:44 AM
hello!,I love your writing so a lot! share we keep up a correspondence more about
your post on AOL? I require a specialist on this space to solve my
problem. May be that is you! Looking ahead to peer you.
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