Djerba

In the Gulf of Gabes, off the coast of Tunisia is Djerba the largest island in North Africa. Famous for it’s varied history as well as beautiful beaches, it is a popular tourist destination. The winter months have very comfortable climate and the summers are hot, but the clear turquoise water of the Mediterranean and the miles of clean sandy beaches make it a dream holiday destination at any time of the year.

Djerba is a well developed beach holiday resort that has a large variety of accommodations from luxury five star hotels to youth hostels. There are excellent swimming pool complexes some with poolside bars, children’s pools, tennis, games rooms and a variety of spa experiences including massage, sauna and a fitness room.

Things to do in Djerba

Many of the beaches and hotels in Djerba offer kitesurfing and windsurfing and there are lessons available for beginners. It is an amazing experience to sail over the clear, blue Mediterranean. Other sports and activities are table tennis, horseback riding, diving, beach volleyball, bowls, water aerobics and Djerba also has an 18-hole golf course with an additional 9-hole practice course.

The golf course was designed by an English architect. It faces the sea and is surrounded by trees. It has a golf shop, private lounge, restaurant and bar. Along with the golf course there are day spas, water sports, boat trips and tours of archaeological sites including the Byzantine ruins. There are over 400 archaeological sites that include Punic and Roman villas.

Getting around Djerba

Visitors can relax in the resorts on the island and easily visit the mainland for tourism on ferries or the causeway that connects the island to the mainland. The capital city of Djerba is Houmt Souk which is in the north and has grown up on the site of the old Roman city of Gerba. It is considered one of the most picturesque towns in the country. Its name means market and during the day it is a wonder to see all the commerce that takes place. It is safe to go out at night and see the town when all the activity had calmed down. The other main cities are Midoun on the northeast coast and Ajim on the southern coast.

Djerba Tourist Attractions

For history lovers there is plenty to see in Djerba. On the beach of Houmt Souk is a 15th century fort, Fort Ghazi Mustapha, constructed against a Spanish invasion. It is built of glowing red ocher stone and has recently been renovated. As far back as Homer, Djerba was considered to be the island of the Lotus-Eaters where Odysseus was stranded. There are archeological sites from fourth century BC near Midoun. In the southwest of the island are the ruins of a cathedral from the early Christian era approximately 255 to 525 AD.

From the Houmt Souk marina you can ride an 18th century pirate ship to a small island where you will have a tasty picnic lunch and enjoy the clean sandy beach. There is entertainment onboard the ship as well as fishing lessons and often there are dolphins that follow the ship.

Several kilometers southwest of Houmt Souk is the ancient synagogue of El Ghriba. One of the oldest synagogues in the world it is home to the oldest Torah in the world. There are different versions of when it was built, and only a small portion of the original building is still standing, but either one is quite old. It was built in 586 BC or 7 AD.

East of Houmt Souk on the Ras Remel Peninsula is a place where red flamingos visit every winter. They turn the landscape pink which contrasts well with the turquoise sea. Tourists and ornithologists alike enjoy the site. Another kind of animal adventure is Djerba Explore a project that is unique in the Mediterranean. It is dedicated to Islamic art as well as crocodiles.

Djerba Explore is an interesting combination of culture and nature. It is a model Djerbian village with all the streets, arcades, alleys, walkways, porches, cafes and friendly people who have a history of welcoming newcomers. Beautifully landscaped waterways and lagoons are home to the largest crocodile farm in the Mediterranean basin. The centerpiece is the Hadria Lalla Museum that shows the Djerbian heritage including the Islamic art forms of calligraphy, fabric and ceramics.

Other interesting towns to visit on the island are Midoun, Ajim and Guellala. Midoun is the tourist center of the island and has 20 km of hotels along the coast all with beautiful beach access. All Luxury and mid-priced hotels have air conditioning, refrigerator, satellite TV, telephone, bathroom with shower, hairdryer and other amenities.

The village of Guellala is famous for its hand made ceramics and pottery. Gorgeous tea sets, vases, plates and bowls as well as whimsical animals are for sale in a huge market place. Feel free to haggle down the price because the vendors expect it, and you can get some really good bargains.

The town of Ajim is the setting for the first Star Wars Episode IV film Mos Eisley sequences. You can still see the front of Chalmun’s Cantina and a half-domed wall that was the Stromtroopers Checkpoint. A fisherman’s hut that was used as the exterior of Ben Kenobi’s hut is also still there. The Falcon Blast Off Alley is also still there, but it is not easy to find. It may look like Tatooine, but it is not the real thing.

For those who want the thrill of facing a real desert and possibly taking a camel, motorcycle or 4-wheel drive vehicle trek for a few days can visit the mainland. Douz is in south central Tunisia and is the gateway to the Sahara. It has an International Festival of the Sahara in November/December that offers traditional music and dancing with camel wrestling, horse and dog racing and plenty of delicious local food. It has been a major palm oasis for centuries and is a large producer of diglat noor dates.

Back to the island paradise, Djerba is called the island of 100 mosques, two from the 12th century, and they come is all sizes. They are delicate and simple and blend in with the Mediterranean atmosphere. The Cedoukech mosque is especially interesting. Built underground, only its white domes appear above ground. The inhabitants of the island welcome visitors as part of their livelihood and enjoy seeing them marvel at the beauty of the local nature and architecture. One of the most amazing areas is the Cedghiane oasis. It is a landscape with palm trees that provide shade so that citrus trees and other crops can prosper.

The visitor to Djerba can have a relaxing, comfortable and entertaining stay in one of the hundreds of resorts available on the many beaches. In the cool of the mornings or evenings visitors can explore the interesting and beautiful sites on the island.