TUNISIA – WATER, DESERT AND NOMADIC VASTNESS


It doesn’t matter if the path is long,
as long as there is a well at the end. (Tuareg saying)

 

Water is our cool elixir being available unfortunately not everywhere in the world. However, with the ongoing climate change the desert and semi-arid areas will expand even more globally while water shortages even occurr today in countries like Spain or Italy during summertime.

Remote Cape Negro and the Mediterranean in the still greenish North

From the main road between Tabarka and Bizerte we had to drive 15 km over deserted sand tracks to reach Cape Negro, a forgotten and left place at the Mediterranean coast with typical vegetation, a quite cool wind from the sea and also a long sandy beach without other people.

Cork oak in a forest near Tabarka not far from the Algerian border

“Hotel Les Mimosas” in Tabarka

Doesn’t this hotel look really very French? The lovely place is situated on top of a small hill allowing a nice view on Tabarka and the sea.

Water reservoir Sidi-el-Barrak near Nefza

This water reservoir in the very green North of Tunisia is also a complete non-touristic place but during this moment of a late afternoon the sentiment and interaction of light, clouds and water revealed something else.

Atlas massive divides Tunisia, at its Southern edge the great Sahara begins

Take in mind that Tunisia was once serving as the breadbasket of the Roman Empire only 2,000 years ago. Since then the warming period after the last Ice age and normal climate change have transformed formerly very fertile areas to extensive badlands and endless desert zones. And the Sahara has so far not ceased its unbridled expansion.

Cracked desert between Tozeur and Tamerza, Sahara

This photo means still one of my favourite travel remembrances from Tunisia showing a single resilient bush in an area of burst and dried soil most likely due to very seldom and heavy rainfalls some time ago.

But where are the legendary dromedaries? Not a single one here.

Photo was taken on the main road coming from the North and Tunis, this is now really deep in the South somewhere between Metlaoui and Tozeur.

Matmata cave dwellings also known as Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars

Half way between Tozeur and the peninsula Djerba lies the cave village of Matmata where people have lived for thousands of years and which got well known by the famous cult film series Star Wars.  The landscape is quite barren with only a few apartments on the surface but the magic of Matmata goes deeper and is revealed to guests when they descend into the unique underground cave dwellings which offered its inhabitants good protection against extreme cold at night and the burning sun during the day. 

Arabic scene in Tunisia, Ernesto Quarti Marchio, 1933

Small paradise and tiny water fountain near oasis of Douz with Beatrice vested as a fabulous Tunisian princess

Oasis areas in the endless width of the great Sahara desert are often to be found in geological break zones and depressions such as here. In the desert each drop of sweet water is just more worth than a sack of gold.

Dromedaries waiting for clients at the oasis of Douz

The Sahara desert used to be a wide ocean in former times where the nomads did their endless sails on dromedaries (not camels), some do it till today. Though, I admire the desert very much (like high mountains) as a quite puristic place with a clear unlimited view till the distant horizon which may clear a mind and widen the own horizon, a real exciting feeling beside all those known hazards and risks.

Nomadic monument at road junction in Douz

The oasis of Douz is a real gateway to the Sahara with around 30,000 inhabitants today. The desert dunes near Douz are famous because they are consisting of an incredible soft and nearly white sand. The area is traditionally inhabited by the semi-nomadic Mrazig tribe, an Arab Bedouin tribe who left the Arabian Peninsula in the 8th century to settle in Tunisia in the 13th century. Today many live from the date harvest and probably the best dates in Tunisia come from Douz called Deglet en Nour. So the “gold of the oasis” is more than just any fruit for the people of Douz.

Death zone of the huge salt lake Chott-el-Jerid after sunset

The tremendous salt lake Chott-el-Jerid can be traversed today safely on a solid dam with street which is also connecting the oasis areas Nefzaoua and Tozeur. In former times such travel turned out to be a real dangerous adventure.

Not for drinking – just salty water of Chott-El-Jerid

Ruins of the old city and mountain oasis of Tamerza

Now this excursion here has really turned out to become more a collage of texts, impressions and varied images which had been picked up at diverse locations scattered all over vast and nice Tunisia. 

Breakfast always with fresh flowers at oasis of Tozeur

Most photos were made during a self-organized round trip thru all Tunisia in April 2006, but here are also 3 still analog pictures included resulting  from a short trip to Tozeur in October 2002.

51. International Festival of Sahara in Douz 2019

 

P. S. The featured image at the beginning with a Tunisian motif is a painting by another Orientalist artist: “A street in Gadames” by Giorgio Oprandi,1929.

 

A PROMENADE THROUGH OLD BEESKOW, GERMANY

An unplanned road trip to somewhere else finally led me to an old charming small city named Beeskow in Brandenburg (approx. 50 km South-Eastern of Berlin) which was founded in the 13th century. Fortunately great parts of the medieval city wall with now open gates and the usual guarding towers do still exist and really deliver a vivid and direct impression of times passed by.

Northern city gate leading to Storkow

View on St. Mary’s Church, 15th century, red brick Gothic style

Nice walk along the city wall

Urban scenery near the market-place

Stork Tower, 14th century

The beekeeper’s store in town

Description of the town from 17th century in ancient German:

“Besekau / An der Spree / 5. Meilen von der Chur-Brandeburgischen Vestung Beytzen / der Peyze und 3. Meilen von Fürstenwald gelegen / ein Städtlein / so albereit zur Nideren Laußnitz in der Land-Tafel gezogen wird; aber noch Brandeburgisch gestalt auch alhie ein Churfürstlich Hauß und Ampt ist. Es ligen herumb Storkaw / Mulrose / nahend Franckfurt / Schlaube / Mertensdorff / zur Fehre / Ledeleben / etc. so alle für etwas sonderbares gezeichnet werden; wir aber davon fast nichts zu berichten finden.”   (Topographia Electoratus Brandenburgici et Ducatus Pomeraniae, Merian, Frankfurt am Main, 1652, p. 30)

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P. S. The medieval author of 17th century was really looking here for something extraordinary but could not find it however in the small and charming city.
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ANCIENT CONVENIENCE AT HOTEL SIDI DRISS, TUNISIA

If you are looking for some special comfort or experience, you will find it possibly at Hotel Sidi Driss in old Matmata, Southern-Tunisia. We had the opportunitiy to visit the site during a round trip through all Tunisia in 2006, and it attracts not only fans of Star Wars in which this filming location featured as the home of Luke Skywalker on the planet Tatooine for the 4th film episode in 1976.

The contemporary hotel was designed as a traditional Berber troglodyte underground building at medieval times. The Berbers created them by digging a large pit in the ground with a depth of ca. 10 m. Around the perimeter of this pit artificial caves were then dug to be used as rooms, with some homes comprising multiple pits, connected by trench-like passageways. These structures in the ground were much cooler than buildings on the surface, ancient airconditions not requiring any energy like today.

Actual accomodation fares at Hotel Sidi Driss are not really high, as the standard is obviously quite simple, rural and original. Room numbers are pinned on the long existing old walls, but we did not test it as we had already a booked accomodation at the oasis of Tozeur.  Besides a lot of people are passing by for a short visit to feel a little bit of multiple Star Wars ambitions and more here in the vast desert of the Sahara.

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Comfort