Djerba Island in Tunisia
The island of Djerba since the 60's is famous as an excellent place for beach holidays, but among Russians it became popular only in 2016, when Egypt and Turkey were closed to our tourists. Let's talk about this place in detail.
Location on map Tunisia
The country of Tunisia is divided into northern and southern parts. This division is rather conditional, it is not fixed by any official documents. The border between the north and the south runs along the border of the provinces of Sfax and Gabes.
The Djerba Island is located in Southern Tunisia and is an important part of it. Of the 11 million people in the southern part, only 1.2 million live, and of this number, 160,000 live on the island of Djerba. Djerba Island is the most densely populated region of Southern Tunisia, with a population density of 310 people per sq.km.
On the map on the right you can see the place of Djerba Island on the map of the country and its location relative to other popular resorts. Details of the location on the map of all Tunisian resorts, we told in the article " Map of Tunisia with resorts ."
Despite this, the island of Djerba is not an independent vilayet (province), it is part of the province of Medenin, and the capital of the province - the city of Medenin is on the continent. The Djerbians have been campaigning for their administrative independence for a long time, but no serious success has been achieved.
The route from Djerba to the capital of the country - the city of Tunisia is 500 kilometers by road (330 kilometers in a straight line).
Figures, interesting facts and a bit of history
The area of the island is 513 sq. Km. km. Djerba occupies the 15th place among the islands in the Mediterranean, ahead of the size of such famous islands as Malta, Kos and Elba. Djerba Island is the largest in North Africa.
If you look at the map, it is 25 kilometers wide and 20 high. The total length of the coastline is 150 kilometers.
The population is about 163 thousand people (the last census was in 2014). The island has three large cities: Houmt Souk (the capital of the island) with a population of 43 thousand, Midun - 39 thousand and Azhim - 15 thousand.
Since ancient times, Djerba was called "Gateway to Africa", since the island was convenient for seafarers, and at the same time had a convenient connection with the mainland - the Roman road, which should be discussed in detail.
The Roman road is a unique structure, it is a 7-kilometer long mound that connects the island of Djerba with the mainland. The ramparts were built by the Romans. Now along the embankment there is a highway and a water pipe that delivers fresh water to the island. The road leads to another famous resort of Tunisia - Zarzis . In the photo on the left you can see how the Roman road looks now, click on the photo to enlarge.
At first glance, the Roman road does not appear to be anything surprising, but it strikes the antiquity of the structure. So it seems in the imagination, as caravans from Africa went to the Djerba ports along this embankment, they carried incense, oil and other goods. Many caravans were transported in caravans, and Djerba was the largest slave market in the Middle Ages and in the Ancient times.
In addition to the Roman road, the island is connected to the mainland by ferry from the city of Ajim to the city of Jorusalem on the mainland.
Passing by the modest houses and gardens on the island of Djerba, tourists do not think that there could be a center of civilization here, but in the ancient era, Djerba was fabulously rich. Here they extracted "tier purple" - a dye of purple color, which cost more than gold. It was extracted from shellfish molluscs.
Roman writer Pliny the Elder wrote that the level of production on Djerba is so great that it is second only to Tire. Add here a huge revenue from the sale of olive oil, high-quality ceramics and trade income, and you can imagine how rich the Djerbians were in those days. The production of oil and ceramics is flourishing now, even tourists are taken to the pottery workshops of Guellala , as an excursion.
Between 1995 and 2000, active excavations were conducted here by specialists from the University of Pennsylvania (USA), the American Academy in Rome (Italy) and the Tunis National Institute of Heritage (Tunisia). They excavated more than 400 objects, mostly Roman villas and Punic periods. Another hundred objects are still waiting for excavations, Djerba is a real treasure for archaeologists.
In ancient times, the island was called Meninx, there were three large cities. The first was called Haribus, now it is the city of Guellala . The second was in the northeast in the area of the modern tourist zone, the third in the center of the island near modern Midun.
In the Middle Ages, Djerba was uneasy - the island passed from hand to hand, belonged to the Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Sicilians, Spaniards, Turks. If interested, you can read the French Wikipedia, there it is written in detail about who and in what year captured or repulsed Djerbu.
In the Middle Ages, the island of Djerba was the main base of pirates of the Western Mediterranean. In some years the power of pirate captains was even official, that is, there was a "pirate republic" here. For example, in 1503 pirate captain Aruzh and his brother Heireddin Barbarossa were able to capture the island completely, having established a kind of state. This is very worried about the Spaniards, who in a few years began to arrange raids in order to dislodge the pirates.
All these events left a serious imprint on the traditional culture of the inhabitants of Djerba. Djerbians never settle by the sea, because for them the sea always meant the danger of raiding.
On the island of Djerba, a huge number of mosques - more than 600, since the mosque has always been not only a religious building, but also a center of defense against raiders, and high minarets were used as observation towers. On Djerba traditionally do not build houses above one floor, and the Djerba house "kauch" looks more like a fortress than a habitual home. In the park Djerba Heritage tourists are shown a traditional mensel and a coach.
The Djerbians are very proud of their tolerance and originality. On the island from the 6th century BC. the Jewish Diaspora lives. These are the Jews who fled from Jerusalem when it was captured by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, when the Temple of Solomon (First Temple) was destroyed to its foundation.
They took a stone from the Temple of Solomon and built on Djerba the synagogue of El-Grib , which is a place of pilgrimage of the Jews. However, now most of the Jews left Djerba for Israel and France, on the island there was a small community of about 1000 people.
On the island of Djerba, there are many ethnic Berbers (people of desert nomads), who have preserved their language and customs. Arabs, Jews and Berbers live on the island together without any conflicts for hundreds of years. It is this attitude that gives Djerba some advantages in the development of tourism.
Tourism on the island of Djerba
The development of tourism began in the 60's, and in 1970 it accelerated with the opening of the island's own airport - "Djerba-Zarzis International Airport" 5 kilometers to the west of the city of Hum-Suk. Now it is a modern airport with a runway 3200 meters long, capable of taking even large wide-body liners. For example, in 2016, Boeing 777 aircraft were used on Nord Wind charter flights.
At first, Djerba attracted tourists with its beaches, but then night clubs, discotheques began to be built and even one casino was opened. It is the only one in southern Tunisia and is called "Grand Pasino Djerba". Recall that in Tunisia, only 4 casinos - 1 in Sousse , 2 in Hammamet and 1 on the island of Djerba. As the Djerbians managed to get permission, it is difficult to imagine, because gambling is strictly prohibited by Islam.
The Djerba Island, as a tourist destination, gained fame due to flamingo birds and nightclubs, has acquired the status of a "hanging resort". At the beginning of the zero years, several new attractions opened - a museum in the city of Guellala and Djerba Explore Park, consisting of Crocodile Farm , the Lell Hadriya Museum and Djerba Heritage Village .
Everything went fine, until the World Financial Crisis hit the tourism industry, or rather in 2011 it "reached" Europe with all its might, and the Jasmine Revolution added "oil to the fire." If in 2009 and 2010, the tourist statistics of Tunisia "stormed" the figure of 7 million tourists per year, then in 2011 visitors to Tunisian resorts were only 4,700,000.
This was a monstrous recession, and the island of Djerba was one of the first to suffer - according to the results of the 2011 season, half of the hotels were closed due to unprofitability. Or rather, they were not closed, but preserved until better times. Part of it is empty until now (note the article was written in 2016).
Many regular flights were canceled, and the situation has not yet normalized. If you decide not to buy a package tour, and to rest on Djerba on your own, then we will have to disappoint. Regular flights to Djerba-Zarzis airport are now being carried out only from France, will have to fly with a transfer, very long and most likely with the change of the airport in Paris. In the case of a package tour, fly direct charter flight.
However, we hope for the best, because in many ways Djerba surpasses the rest of Tunisia resorts due to some of its features.
Features for tourists
The first plus is the small size of the island, therefore, from the airport to the hotel you will reach quickly - no longer than 40 minutes to the farthest hotel.
Geographical position gives another indisputable plus - since the island of Djerba is located in the south, here the temperature of air and sea water is 1-2 degrees higher than in the resorts of the north of Tunisia - in Sousse, Hammamet or Nabeul .
Having settled in the hotel room and having plunged into the hotel pool, in most cases tourists discover that the water in the pool is salty. On Djerba this is normal, most of the pools are filled with sea water. Deficiency of fresh water is a big problem of the island, it is easier and cheaper to clean sea water than to waste fresh water.
The south of Tunisia is considered to be poorer than the north. When buying Tunisian souvenirs and gifts , tourists feel it. Olive oil, fruits and souvenirs are cheaper here.
Another interesting feature can be noticed while driving along the coast. The coast is empty, no buildings. We have already said that dervais traditionally do not settle on the shore. Tourists are available all 150 kilometers of the island's shore - bathe, wherever you want!
Beaches of Djerba
Beaches are sandy with beautiful white sand, not inferior in quality to the sand in Hammamet. But in this "barrel of honey there is a fly in the ointment" - in the sand stones are often found, quite sharp.
Bathed in inclement weather categorically do not recommend, you can run into a stone and get a serious injury and travel insurance treatment will not cover.
Some beaches are completely covered with large boulders.
Hotels are constantly engaged in cleaning the beaches of stones, some have already done it to the end, some did not even begin. Our advice: carefully read reviews about the hotel, what they say about the stones in the sand tourists who have already visited the hotel.
All beach hotels are concentrated on the north-east and east coasts of the island, this place is called - the tourist zone. For hotels allocated about 20 kilometers of the coast. Places are not enough. Carefully read the description of the hotel, whether it is on the first line or the second?
As of 2016 on the island of Djerba fully functioning about 40 beach hotels. Altogether there are 59 of them, 34 of them are on the first beach line and 26 on the second. As can be seen from the statistics, a third of the hotels are still closed.
The most prestigious and expensive hotel here is the hotel "Hasdrubal Prestige Djerba". But he is expensive only in Djerbian standards - 150-200 dollars per night for an ordinary room for two guests.
Most of the hotels are classified as 4 stars, fives only 7 as of 2016. Hotels periodically undergo re-attestation, the number of stars varies, at the time you read this article, the numbers may change slightly.
On Djerba there are no grand buildings like El Jem or large-scale archaeological sites like Carthage , Udna or Dugga . The humid climate of the island adversely affects the preservation of ancient buildings, from all the ancient cities there were only piles of stones.
But here is the newest attraction of Tunisia - the project DjerbaHood (pictured left). In the village of Erriad, 150 artists left their paintings on the walls of the houses. Here is the main cultural attraction of Djerba - the synagogue of El-Grib .
Not less popular among tourists enjoys the most ancient city of the island - Guellala. There are several pottery workshops with shops for tourists. On the hill near the city (the highest point of the island is 54 meters high) is the Guellala Museum , which shows the life and customs of the Djerbians.
The best seller among tourists is the Djerba Explore entertainment park, which consists of the tourist market, the Lella Hadriya museum , the Djerba Heritage village and the " nook of the island's excursion program" Crocodile farm . Djerba Explore Park is very conveniently located in the heart of the tourist area.
Tourists carry a look at the Roman road, although it is difficult to call it a tourist attraction. Nearby you can see the fishermen and their boats and "enjoy" the landscape of the local garbage dump, in other words this place is not called, see yourself on the photo on the right.
In the capital of the island - the city of Houmt Souk, you can visit the Heritage Museum, walk through the Old Town and the tourist market, see Fort Bordj al-Kabir, which guarded the entrance to the port.
Along the northern coast stretches a long shoal 10 kilometers long - this is the island of Ras Rmel, better known as the "island of the flamingo." Here you can see thousands of flamingos when they sit down here during the winter hike. Unfortunately, the time of their occurrence is unpredictable. Here tourists are taken on excursions on boats, stylized for pirate ships.
Where to shop on Djerba
For foodstuffs, we recommend Kayfur supermarkets . There are two of them on the island - the first in Houmt Souk, the second in Midun.
For souvenirs, choose tourist markets, where you are looking for Fix Price stores, so it's easier to buy souvenirs in Tunisia . Good markets can be found in the Old Town of Houmt Souk and near the Djerba Explore Park. Or visit the stores near the Kaifur, there is not such a wide choice, but you do not need to go anywhere.
Horseback riding is popular with European tourists, but Russians are not so in demand. There are 6 stables on Djerba, where they provide this service, as well as camel riding.
Club BLUE DOLPHIN - the largest diving center on the island is in the center of the tourist zone. In addition to it, you can learn diving and rent equipment at the centers "ARCHIMEDE" and "SIRENED".
Also on Djerba you can play golf, ride a quad bike and buggy, ride a jet ski or boat. In short, the whole spectrum of resort entertainment is present.
On Djerba, a large (by Tunisian standards) number of discos and nightclubs. The most famous local club is called "La Cyclone". Party organizers have a good habit of hanging advertising posters with announcements on walls in cities, markets and near hotels. Just look more closely.
Successful trips to the beaches of Djerba, and read our other useful reviews about Tunisia ( links below ).
Read about Tunisia on our website