Amazing Amazigh Villages: June 2024


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Lovely morning in the Tataouine region. Off for a full day of exploring. First stop is Ksar Ouled Soltane.

Built by the Amazigh people in the 15th century, it’s another fantastic example of their granary storage buildings. Always at the tops of mountains or cliffs (for good defense), with pleasing rounded windows and doors, and lovely exterior staircases. Definitely feels like a Fantasy setting (vibes of the Finale of the Labyrinth movie). We’d already visited some Amazigh granary buildings (heck, our hotel was in a converted former village). But this one was very well preserved (and possibly was fixed up for tourists?).

There were a few entrepreneurial vendors set up. And 4 Thai tourists doing a very fun photoshoot. But we mostly had the place to ourselves. And again, Tunisia is not a land worried about safety warnings or guidance or really any rules when visiting these archaeological sites. We were left on our own to explore, wandering down alleys

and peeping into old storage rooms,

and free to climb up the staircases. Only limited by our own sense of safety (and balance, physics, etc), which means your girl didn’t climb past the 4th or 5th step, but others were braver. It was very cool to explore.

Then back into our trusty van, driving to our next exploration site. Van Madness may have been setting in. Bit of a maniacal gleam, there.

Next, a stop and a climb up to and around the abandoned historical Amazigh village of Douiret.

The mosque and a few of the buildings are still in decent shape, but many are showing the wear and tear of the centuries past.

While it had a population of a few thousand still in the 1800’s, it was down to only two families in the last several years, and Yassine said even they moved within this last decade.

There is a new town (also named Douiret) at the bottom of the hilltop, with electricity and better water access. Still, very cool to explore.

Here is a photo with an inset closeup of the carving at the top.

This symbol “Yaz” represents the Free Man, and the Amazigh People use it to refer to themselves.

At the base of the historical village was this cool Cafe building, featuring a Coffee Djinn. Couldn’t tell if it is closed forever, or just wasn’t open during our visit.

I hope that they’re able to be open during busier times, because a nice cup of tea after climbing around would have been lovely.

Then off to the village of Chenini.

Another hilltop Amazigh village (they’re always building at tops of hills or mountains). Where we had a nice lunch in a converted cave, which kept things slightly cooler in termperature.

Initially we were the only people in there (they had about 6 tables total) but a French couple and their guide came in partway through our meal. We’re having a nice chat, as we do. And I’d been thinking that our group energy levels felt a little lower. Maybe everyone is just hot and tired, I mused to myself. After the meal, as we wander down the path to begin our climbing and exploring, Yassine returns from the washroom. He is laughing so hard he is almost crying. Through wheezing laughing breaths, he explains that that French couple had come up to him, thinking he was an employee of the restaurant, to complain about the table of Loud Americans. Oops. Also, Bwahahaha. And accurate. (Imagine if we’d been at our Full Strength volume?!?)

95* out this day!!! In the mid-day sun. Insert song about Mad Dogs and Englishmen. After lunch we climbed up and around the village.

Some of the turns featured a spectacular mountain-top breeze along with the view, and those were my favorite parts. Ha!

Shade is hard to come by, but occasionally there’s a rocky overhang or a convenient rocky pillar providing some hiding from the sun’s rays.

the view from the very top!

Back to the van, and an unscheduled stop at the Mosque of the Seven Sleepers. There’s a lot of almost centuries old different religious traditions here. Ancient Christian tradition tells of Seven early Christians, persecuted by the Romans, who are walled up alive in a cave (either done by themselves for protection or walled up by others as punishment). They went to sleep. and years or centuries later, they’re found still alive. This is most often attributed to a cave site in Ephesus, Turkey, although other caves and regions claim this origin, too. The story becomes more complicated, because there is also a Seven Sleepers story in the Quran. And there are a few different sites and countries claiming this holy origin, as well. The charming Mosque near Chenini in Tunisia claims to be the holy burial site of these seven sleepers

. In some stories they also continued growing to be giants! And some of the ancient graves are suspiciously large here. We were shown around inside this charming small mosque, and it was told to us that this site has held several different religious buildings in the exact same spot over the years.

In addition to Christian, I swear he also showed us where a former Jewish holy building was…although a cursory Google search now doesn’t mention it. (Internet details on this mosque are slim). The site definitely felt special, with a lovely calm energy, and noticeably cooler temperatures in the inner most cave-like interior.

Back to the hotel for a refreshing shower (the updated/renovated rooms of this former Berber village are adorable. And having indoor plumbing, in this curved little room at the top of a cliff side in the Tataoine region…so refreshing.

And this room had one of the most powerful AC units of the whole trip. Or at least, the most functional. Several of our stops had an AC unit that was more decorative than cooling…air would blow from it, so it worked as a fan. But not always with a cooling effect. *tiniest violin sound. Hard to complain too much. (We did have some shower adventures our first day. Courtney comes out of the bathroom…well, I’ve turned our bathroom into a swamp. Ya know that thing hoses can do sometimes when the pressure suddenly changes, where they can swing around like a crazy snake? Well, the shower hose did that to her and she managed to spray water everywhere. Ha! And hotels in Tunisia were always VERY limited in towels, so she’s trying to mop it up using her one towel and the tiny bath mat towel. And then, our shower ran out of water when it was my turn. At least I noticed the water pressure was disappearing. So was able to conserve and turn off the taps while shampooing, etc. Camping rules! Happily on this second day, water lasted through both of our showers, no problem!)

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