18 Feb 2016
travel tunisia

Let’s travel Southern Tunisia!

olive transport ferry djerba

The ferry from Ajim

Grab a bag, a phone, a camera, and some water– we’re going on an adventure to Gabes and Matmata!

This last weekend I visited the mainland in Southern Tunisia. The day started early (ha) at 8:30 AM when we met at the bus station to find a bus from Djerba to Gabes. The first bus had just left, so we settled into a Louage (van) and waited for them to sell the last couple of seats before leaving. From Houmet Souk to Ajim, it’s all of 20 minutes in the van, weaving past slower vehicles and staring at the vast olive groves.

Ajim hosts the ferry, one of three ways to enter and exit the island (the other two are by air or by causeway/bridge). Louage doesn’t get priority on the ferry, so we waited an hour or so until it was our turn to cross to the mainland. The breeze was cool but the sun was warm, so we talked and took pictures and enjoyed the lovely view.

After a quick crossing, we turned up the speed and zipped along past more olive groves, enjoying the gentle hills on the route to Gabes.

spices market Gabes

Spices sold at the henna market

The city of Gabes is fairly large, and upon arrival we decided to explore a little. We wandered through the henna market (see my last post), ate sandwiches at our lovely guide’s favorite shop, then went to explore Chenini of Gabes. It’s like an oasis, filled with palm trees and other greenery that contrasted from the arid surroundings. We explored a small zoo, watching some youths pester a camel and enjoying the antics of the monkeys. Then it was time for a carriage ride! There were two to choose from, both fully decked out with flowers and jingling bells. We relaxed and enjoyed the view, then settled down at a cafe for some espresso and hot chocolate.

brik couscous tunisian cuisine

Dinner in a Tunisian home

Mid-afternoon it was time to visit the beach! Gabes features a large, pleasant waterfront with a boardwalk and various cafes. There’s also a shipyard with a large dry dock, where we watched men at work constructing large boats. After the sun set, we made our way to our host’s cousins’ house, where the evening was taken up with cooking and eating, talking and dancing, until late when we finally went to sleep, snug under a pile of blankets.

Morning came early and we headed for the city of Old Matmata shortly after sunrise. Upon arrival it was time for coffee (man, was it time!), and a little breakfast of snacks from a nearby shop.

star wars troglodyte matmata

Troglodyte home

Matmata is home to many troglodyte (cave) homes. The amazing thing about these homes  is their temperature. Being deep in the earth produces rooms that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We explored a house that was 1,020 years old, another that was 400 years old, and a third that was Luke’s home on the planet Tatooine (Star Wars, anyone?). You can even spend a night in a troglodyte hotel, for 25 dinar/day, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What a deal!

After further exploration, we made our way back to Gabes, boarded the bus to Djerba, and returned home to Houmet Souk, filled with thoughts of our whirlwind tour.

Well, that’s all from me, the Winter Intern. I hope you’ve enjoyed following my adventures with the Tunisian Door!

Leave a Comment