Southern Excursion: Part 2

On the fourth day we left Tozeur and headed towards Douz. along the way we stopped at the Chott el Djerid Salt Lake. It is the largest salt span in the Sahara and it 160 miles long. We had some fun walking around and exploring.

We found an abandoned boat!
We found an abandoned boat!
The lake stretched on for miles.
The lake stretched on for miles.

We drove for several hours through the desert and wide open road until we reached Douz. In Douz we all got to ride camels! We dressed in traditional Berber clothing and rode out to the dunes. My camel’s name was Antonio and he was three years old. I felt a bit sorry for the camels since some of them had leashes attached tot heir noses, but they seemed pretty content with their life.

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Taking a break in the sand.
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Enjoying the Sahara!

I had always imagined riding a camel would be like riding a horse, but it was actually quite different and pretty uncomfortable. We took a break in the middle and relaxed on the dunes.

After the camel ride we made our way to Matmata where we stayed the night in a troglodyte dwelling. Troglydytes are cave dwellings dug vertically into the ground and they are found in desert villages in North Africa. These homes are practical for desert life because they are cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Although most people don’t live in trigs anymore you can still find them in certain towns in the Sahara.

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A view of our hotel for the night.
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There were various different dwellings to explore.

The troglodytes were also used as the scene of several shots in Star Wars. We visited a nearby troglodyte which was used as the Lars family home in Episode I and Episode IV but has now been turned into a bar.

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Troglodyte that served as the home of the Lars family in Star Wars.

The next day we drove to the island of Djerba. Djerba is home to the largest jewish population in Tunisia and home to the largest  synagogue in North Africa. Unfortunately it had closed early since no tourists had visited in the morning and the rabbi had gone home.

Tourism had been on the decline in Tunisia due to the attacks at the Bardo Museum and Sousse. Everywhere we traveled we saw the effects of this. Many hotels we stayed in were empty, especially on the northern excursion. We encountered more tourists in the south and especially near Star Wars sites, but not nearly as many as before the attacks.

The synagogue itself suffered an attack in 2002 and 21 tourists were killed, many of them German. Since then German tourist has never picked up again.

Djerba(pronounced Jerba) is a beautiful island. After eating lunch we had the rest of the day free to explore. We took the time to get some souvenir shopping done and explore the island.

A fort we found while exploring.
A fort we found while exploring.

 

We found some fishing boats while exploring.
We found some fishing boats while exploring.

The next day we visited an old Ibadite mosque. Before it was a mosque it had been a church and before then it was most likely a shrine.

The Ibadite mosque.
The Ibadite mosque.

After the mosque we had more free time. Since it was Halloween a few of us decided to celebrate in Tunisia. We walked from Fruit Sec stand to Fruit Sec stand and bought a piece of candy at each place. Sometimes we would try to explain what Halloween to the people working at the Fruit Sec stand. One young man we tried to explain it to told us he thought Halloween was in December. We laughed and told him he was probably thinking of Christmas.

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Tasting our first piece of candy.
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Buying some mysterious Tunisian candy.
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One of the many fruit sec stands we visited.

Our last night in Djerba was quite. We had a lovely meal at the hotel and watched Star Wars: Episode III before bed.

On Sunday we took a ferry back to the mainland and stopped at the El-Jem amphitheater. It is the largest colosseum in North Africa  It is modeled on the colosseum of Rome and most of the infrastructure is still intact. We were even able to walk underneath the amphitheater in the same tunnels the gladiators walked.

Walking underneath the amphitheater.
Walking underneath the amphitheater.
The amphitheater was so large it was impossible to fit it all in one picture.
The amphitheater was so large it was impossible to fit it all in one picture.

After el-Jem we traveled to Mahdia, a small coastal village, where we spent the night. It was dark when we arrived, but we had a chance to explore the next morning.

We visited an old fort and we even had time to stop for some coffee in the medina.

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Exploring the town of Mahdia.
Admiring the view.
Admiring the view.

After a coffee break we headed back to La Marsa. It was nice to be back and see my host family once more. I’ll be moving into an apartment when my ISP begins so I only have one week left with them.

Bsleema!

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