This is the continuation of my tour with Marhag Lotfi, my taxi driver, who often does tours of the islands, airport transfers, or working from day-to-day transferring people around the island.
Guellala, on the southern coast of Djerba and used to be called Haribus in ancient times. Haribus appropriately means “pot”. As far back as Roman times, this area was the main pottery centre and for centuries, Djerba was the sole manufacturer of ceramics in Tunisia. There are about 400 shops working pottery in this area. The traditional shops mine their own clay, going up to 80 metres deep to retrieve the clay for their pots.
I descended into one of these clay mines to see where they excavate the clay. It is labour intensive work, as the men working the mines have to descend a narrow passage, load up their basket with clay and carry it back up. I was tired just from climbing the tall steps back up to ground level!
Many of the larger pots you see below, with a narrow opening at the top are used to store olive oil. Large conical shaped pots with a larger opening are used for grains or dried fruit– these pots are mostly left unglazed. Many ceramics used for cooking or serving food are glazed in colouful colours.
Photos of a typical Guellala Pottery Centre,Chez Ben Minoune and surrounding country side.
Very close to the Guellala Pottery Centre is the Guellala Museum of Popular Traditions, a museum that captures the Djerban day-to-day life. Djerba has a strong Berber presence, Berbers inhabited parts of North Africa, including Tunisia, from about 4,000 BC. They had a nomadic lifestyle and many have embraced Islam, but continue to embrace their own traditions such as way of dress and linguistic differences.
Photos of Guellala Museum:
In the area near Guellala we visited an ancient Mosque(see below) that is 950 years old. It is here that women of the island still come to pray and enjoy solitary time.
Nearby we stopped at an underground funerary. There was no sign outside this small cave-like structure, but Lofi said it was very ancient, perhaps going back to Phoenician or Roman times.
Going back along the coast towards Aghir, we stopped at a Roman archeological site with the remains of marble columns, bases for the columns and some “capitals” the top of the column, and some intricately carved pieces. One statue here looks strangely like someone from Canada. See below.
Our last stop was at the charming fishing village and beach area of Seguia.
If you come to Derba, I highly recommend taking a tour by taxi rather than with a big bus load of other tourists, this way you have more time at the places you wish to see more of and greater flexibility as the driver starts to understand what interests you the most, weather it’s touristy stuff, history, etc.
There are some things here on Djerba that you can see on your own. For example, a taxi into Houmet Souk is very doable on your own to visit the town, Medina and fish market. Because the village of Erriadh is such an interesting, I will definitely go back on my own for another visit.
Also the Djerba Explore Park is something you can also visit solo and spend the day. At this park you can see a Museum with lots of crafts, textiles and jewellery. You also visit an “Al Menzel” a typical way extended families of the island would live in a small community setting. There is also a crocodile Park at Djerba Explore where I learned everything about crocodiles. Stay tuned I will be writing about Djerba Explore Park.