Hammamet - Tunisia, on the mediterranean coast of North Africa, is a fascinating and diverse country. In the north, the mild climate is perfect for growing a variety of vegetables, oranges, olives and the freshest dates I've ever eaten. There's a lively dromedary market in Nebeul, a short bus ride north of Hammamet, which is our base, and wonderful stores in which to buy its famous pottery.
Gabes, on the coast further south, has a colourful, aromatic spice market that's also known for its henna and handmade baskets.
Then there are the blue hues of Sidi Bou Said, perched on a cliffside. Its cobblestone streets, domed roofs and white buildings accented with azure window grills, doors and window frames recall Greece.
But today I'm heading for the Berber caves that have inspired famous filmmakers.
As we travel south from Hammamet, the Sahara starts to make itself evident. Brown buildings blend into the landscape. Berber tent communities stand out black against the brownish rocky soil. Occasionally, nomadic herds of goats and sheep appear. A large herd of camels graze with their young at the side of the road.
In the distant mountain ranges, Berbers still live in the caves. I'm hoping to visit the area where The English Patient was filmed, but our guide only waves his hand vaguely in many directions when we ask him to point it out.
Further south in the desert we stop at Matmata, whose lunar landscape was the location for some of the first Star Wars scenes.
Here, more than a thousand years ago, the Berbers dug their homes. Each has a central open courtyard about 6 metres deep from which rooms tunnel out in all directions. Fully furnished, it's everything you expect in a home. Many even have televisions.
Walking into the Sidi Driss Bar, though, is a disappointment.
The Star Wars cantina, as such, is gone. Only the painting on the ceiling and a vault-like structure on the wall remain. I thought that at least the bar would be there, along with photos of the old "patrons." But there's no Han Solo, no Ralph Fiennes.
We travel further into the desert in search of the obligatory camel ride. Dressed in a blue-and-beige striped burnoose-like coverall, with a white turban wrapped around my head, I prepare to mount my camel.
Timid with animals larger than I am, I beg for one that will be gentle and definitely not into racing. Led by a turban-clad man on foot, we head out. I close my eyes each time we have to go down a sand dune, but other than that, I do relax into the rhythm of the ship of the desert.
The wind blows constantly, and in spite of the turban I still end up with sand in my mouth. After a while, the landscape begins to look the same in every direction, and I can see how, before the building of the road, people would be lost out here forever.
The diamond-like crystals of salt lakes glisten in the sun. Is the beached rowboat ever used, or is it someone's idea of a joke? A sign reads "Algerie 150." Along the road, miles from anywhere, someone has built Star Wars-like creatures to advertise his gift hut and public squat toilets.
Any of it could be a mirage, but it isn't.