Both Mediterranean and Saharan at once, the island of Djerba has been a source of fascination since the time of Homer. Ulysses tasted the “lotus” there, a delicious fruit which takes away all desire to leave, and today each visitor feels spellbound by its exceptional atmosphere; an atmosphere which it shares with Zarzis, its neighbour on the mainland. But Djerba is also an island of holiday clubs, activities in the fresh air, a unique heritage to discover… and excursions into the majestic setting of the Sahara.
What to see ?
Potters or street art
Djerba is made for strolling through, its gentle landscapes are in such complete harmony with the white and rounded traditional architecture: old wells, little mosques hidden in the countryside, large rural properties known as menzels… Visit the Djerba Explore park to experience the life of a rural property, perfectly reconstructed. You will also find there a crocodile farm: watch a feeding and get better acquainted with these impressive reptiles. In Houmt-Souk, take a break by the fishing harbour, visit the fondouk (caravansary) areas and the covered market where fish are sold to the highest bidder. Don’t miss the village of Erriadh to visit one of the most ancient synagogues in the world, the Ghriba, and the living museum of street art, Djerbahood – an astonishing backdrop of traditional architecture appropriated by graffiti artists from around the world. In the village of Guellala, pay a visit to the potters who make large jars reminiscent of the ancient era, follow them down to an underground clay store and try your hand at working the potter’s wheel.
What to do ?
Museums or kitesurf
Beautiful hotel-holiday clubs, white sand beaches… Djerba is a choice destination for a seaside holiday. The regular winds throughout the year and the temperate climate make it an ideal location to learn to kitesurf or go sailing. There is no shortage of activities: scuba diving, parasailing, sea cruises, golf courses, casinos and nightclubs. Observe the huge gatherings of migratory birds in the lagoons. Get to know Djerba’s heritage: in Houmt-Souk you will find the Borj Ghazi Mustapha, a 14th century fortress where the Turkish privateer Dragut fought the Spaniards. The Museum of Traditional Heritage of Djerba explains local jewellery, pottery, traditions… Djerba Explore Park possesses a superb collection of ancient artifacts from Tunisia and the Middle-East. Djerba is also an excellent choice for thalassotherapy and hydrotherapy treatments. On the mainland, set off to discover old Berber villages, underground dwellings, the Ksour and Saharan oases.
What to eat ?
Octopus and Djerbian rice
Freshly caught fish and octopus have pride of place in Djerbian gastronomy. The most fun way to try: buy your own sea bream in the Houmt-Souk marketplace and eat it there and then, garnished with salad, in one of the tiny neighbouring restaurants where the sign proclaims: “Bring your fish, I’ll grill it”! Taste another delicious Djerbian speciality: steamed rice with meat, liver, parsley, spinach and herbs. All around the hotels can be found numerous restaurants offering pizza, seafood and Tunisian cuisine; it is also possible to eat Italian or Asian food in some of the hotels. For a successful evening, dine by the port with music and traditional dancing, enjoy quality meat grilled on a wood fire in a cosy atmosphere, or savour a couscous in a former fondouk in Houmt-Souk.
Where to sleep ?
Guesthouses and holiday clubs
Djerba is the holiday club island par excellence, and they are particularly numerous here. They propose a host of activities in a friendly atmosphere. Nevertheless, all types of accommodation coexist in Djerba, from large luxurious hotels to guesthouses in the countryside. Revamped traditional house, former fondouk converted into a boutique hotel, residence in the style of a village… everyone can choose the atmosphere they most prefer.
Carthaginians, privateers and sponge fishers
The Carthaginians once founded in Djerba a great city known as Meninx; they also built the road which links the island to the mainland, which is known today as the Roman Road. A Jewish community also settled in Djerba during ancient times: their synagogue, the Ghriba, is one the oldest in the world. Djerba was then producer of purple, the prestigious dye made from shells. In the Middle Ages, the island became covered with little rural mosques, who were also fortresses to protect the inhabitants in the case of invasion. The Normans of Sicily, the Aragons, and then the Turks and Spaniards have all fought over its control. In the 16th century, Djerba was a major base for privateers fighting for the Ottoman empire. In the 19th century, the abolition of slavery created an important black community. In the same era, the Maltese and the Greeks came in droves to practice sponge fishing; the Maltese church is still active in Houmt-Souk.
Menzels and fondouks
Exploring the little roads and sandy pathways of Djerba, it is not rare to catch sight of an old menzel. High walls, corner towers, arches and domes… these rural properties are typical examples of island architecture. An architecture that derives all its charm from its simplicity, its rounded forms and its chalky colour. Around each of these mansions, agricultural terrain allowed a whole clan to live self-sufficiently thanks to its well, its olive trees, and its crops irrigated by small canals. The menzels are numerous in the region surrounding Midoun, the second largest town in Djerba. Meanwhile the principal town, Houmt-Souk, is distinguished by its fondouks (caravansaries), locations once designated for travelling merchants to store their goods.
Good to know
Djerba Tourist Board
Tel. : 75 650 016 / 75 650 544 / 75 653 780
Monday: Zarzis, Houmt-Souk Thursday: Houmt-Souk. Friday: Midoun, Zarzis. Saturday: Ben Guerdane.
Djerba is served by an international airport (55km from Zarzis). On the island, numerous taxis make it easy for visitors to get around.
In Djerba and Zarzis you will find brightly coloured mergoums (pile carpets) woven in the southern regions, embroidered dresses, slippers and hats of woven palm fronds… In Houmt-Souk, a visit to the jewellery souk is essential; you will see magnificent pieces in enamelled silver. Close by, the shops will offer you a whole range of tablecloths, scarves, striped drapes and blankets from the workshops of Djerba. The island also has a modern shopping centre and several designer boutiques.