Running Tunisia: The Starting Line


We're underway. As of yesterday, on a salt-pan called Chott el Jerid in southern Tunisia (home to several sets from the Star Wars movies), youth ambassadors from North America, ages 17 to 21, and several support people began the Running Tunisia expedition. The journey will take us across Tunisia to the Mediterranean during the next two weeks, during which we will run roughly a marathon a day and camp out in the Sahara at night.

Of course, given the Icelandic volcanic eruption disrupting global air traffic, things haven't gone totally smoothly. Our flight to Paris (and then on to Tunis) had to be re-routed via Casablanca, and there were the usual travel hiccups. But we all got here yesterday, with the team knocking out a solid 15-kilometer run before making camp. Today, on the vegetation-free Chott el Jerid–where Luke Skywalker once contemplated two setting suns–we knocked out another 35 kilometers before the day grew too hot and long.

Tunisia, often overlooked when people think of traveling in North Africa, is a peaceful, friendly, gorgeous place featuring sea, coasts, dunes, and mountains. Formerly known as Carthage under the ancient Romans, it retains an alluring cultural mix of North Africans, French, Spanish, and Italians. Our hosts here, the desert-tourism agency Douz Travel in the southern oasis town of Douz, have been top-notch. The whole team is enjoying it. Now, time for sleep before the next day's run.

–Ray Zahab

After completing his record run across Lake Baikalwith Kevin Vallely to draw attention to the global clean-drinking-watercrisis, Ray Zahab will return to Tunisia. The first time around, he starredin the documentary Running the Sahara, narrated and executive-produced by Matt Damon.This time, he will lead a group of four young adults–Andy Dilla, JillGilday, Connor Clerke, and Kajsa Heyes–across the desert as part of an i2P expedition to help raise funds and awareness for the water crisis in Africa. The group will traverse 200 to 250 kilometers total, and they aim tomake it through in about eight days, with the goal of running 25 to 50 kilometers per day.

Photo courtesy of i2P