Djerba

Overview

Introduction

Some people believe this island off the coast of southern Tunisia was the Island of the Lotus Eaters referred to in Homer's Odyssey. Today, it is a very popular tourist destination: Its northeastern coast is the most densely developed tourist zone in the country. Although the island has plenty of quiet spots and some interesting architecture and traditions, it's not the best place to go looking for an authentically Tunisian cultural experience. On the other hand, if you're looking for a nice beach resort and a base for exploring other areas in southern Tunisia, Jerba is a good choice.

Houmt Suq is the main town on the island. Sights, apart from a few mosques and an old fort, are not its strong point: Markets are the main attraction for most visitors. Houmt Suq also has a number of nicely restored funduqs (traditional courtyard hotels) and some good restaurants.

Jerba is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in Africa, dating to the sixth century BC. Just south of the town of Hara Seghira is the El Ghriba synagogue. Although the present structure was built in the 1920s, it is nevertheless a beautiful building and contains an ancient Torah. (Only a few hundred Jews reside on Jerba today. Still, El Ghriba is the site of an annual pilgrimage for thousands of Jews every Passover.)

You can also take excursions to the mainland via the causeway. The ksour district and Matmata are popular day trips. Trips to Douz and Tozeur and treks into the desert require more than a day. Jerba is 205 mi/330 km southeast of Tunis.

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