Ksar-Ould-Soltan is the largest ancient Berber fortified granary not only in Tunisia, but throughout North Africa. Located 20 kilometers south of the city of Tatavin.
Tourists are interested in this place as the most outstanding example of Berber architecture and as a place where they shot one of the films of the saga "Star Wars".
Berber architecture and what is "ksar"
Tribes of Berbers have always been nomads, large structures were not erected, there was no need. However, the Berbers engaged in agriculture and actively traded with the coast, it was necessary somewhere to store the harvest and goods.
For these purposes, warehouses were needed. It was not advisable to build a separate warehouse for each family, because the warehouse had to be guarded. Therefore, the Berbers built large fortress warehouses, called "ksar". And sometimes they did not build, but adapted the old fortresses of the era of the Roman Empire, remember at least the Roman fort Tisavar in the oasis of Ksar Gilan .
In ancient times the ksars were built in the mountains, away from the enemies. Around the 13th century ksaras began to be built on the plain, so it was more convenient, closer to reach. Probably, by the 13th century the situation for the Berbers had become calmer.
Now Tunisia has more than 150 ksars in varying degrees of safety, almost all of them are in the area between Tatuvan and Matmata . Ksar-Uled-Soltan is the largest preserved ksar.
Ksar was a large courtyard, surrounded around the perimeter by storage rooms called "gorfa". Usually, one family owned one gorfa. When the courtyard was built around the perimeter of the ghouls completely, they began to build on the second floor, then the third one, and so on.
The ghouls built up to 2 meters high, 3-5 meters wide, 6-8 meters long. They stored not only grain, but also olives and olive oil, dates and other dried fruits and dried vegetables.
The result was a real fortress with one gate and high walls. Ksar served a whole tribe or even a few tribes. The tribe allocated people to protect the ksara from robbers.
Ksars eventually became not only warehouses, but also cultural and religious centers of the Berber tribes. Here they gathered for Friday prayers, arranged markets and places for resolving disputes between families.
Ksars were built of stone, bound with a solution of soil and clay, something like clay-concrete. For the beauty of the wall covered with plaster.
What is interesting about Ksar-Ould-Soltan
The number of the korf in Ksar-Ould-Soltan is a record - more than 440.
The number of floors is a record 5.
There are two courtyards in Ksar-Ould-Soltan. The first was built in the 15th century, the second was added in the 19th century. Judging by the location of the yards and the gorf, the first courtyard was decided to be taken away for the market and prayers, and for the storage to complete the second yard.
Here you can see the organization of access to the rooms. Many ladders are led by stairs (in the photo on the right, click on the photo to enlarge), to which tourists with pleasure climb and take pictures. Such a ladder according to Berber standards was a luxury, in most other ksars access to the upper floors was only by rope or by a rope ladder.
Ksar-Ould-Soltan in the 90s was restored, by 1997 it was restored using original materials.
Some rooms are covered with wooden doors, some are open. You can go inside and see. However, inside is empty, there has long been nothing stored. In some rooms you can see ceramic amphorae, in which oil and grain were stored.
On the stairs and ledges you can climb to the top, you will see a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
Theoretically, you can not climb on the construction, because this is the cultural heritage of Tunisia. In practice, the state did not allocate even one policeman for the protection of the facility. There are no prohibitive inscriptions. Tourists climb, no one interferes.
On the stairs there are no rails, some designs are dilapidated. If you decide to climb somewhere, be careful, and remember the age of some parts of the structure - 500 years. Watch out for the children, better do not let them climb the structure.
Ksar-Ould-Soltan is not very popular now. Groups on a tour of the Sahara do not come here. There are no annoying souvenir dealers or pseudo-guides who want to show tourists ksar for 10 dinars.
Here they shot "Star Wars"
In 1998 in Ksar-Ould-Soltan shooting of the film "Star Wars. Episode I: The Hidden Menace. " Ksar became a decoration for the scenes on the planet Tatooine in the city of Mos Espa in the slave quarter, where he spent his childhood Anakin Skywalker (frame from the film on the left, click on the image to enlarge). Scenes in the quarter of slaves were shot at once in several ksars on the territory of Tunisia and in artificial scenery.
Since now in Ksar-Ould-Soltan come only independent tourists, just fans of Star Wars are the majority of visitors.
The fans here have a special entertainment - on the shots from the film to learn the specific sections of the building of Ksar-Ould-Soltan. For this occupation, they can spend a whole day here.
How to get there
Ksar-Ould-Soltan is located 20 kilometers to the south of the city of Tatavin. There is no public transportation, you can get there by taxi or a rented car.
With a taxi it's easy. You need to find any taxi and tell the driver the phrase "Ksar-Uled-Soltan" and the word "meter", thereby offering to go with payment on the meter. Most likely, he will agree. Pay for the trip and for waiting for the taxi driver. Tariffs for travel and waiting for a taxi, see our review " Taxi in Tunisia ". Most often, tourists get 35-50 dinars for a round-trip trip.
How to get to Tatavin
The simplest are the guests of Djerba , from the city of Houmt Souk (the capital of the island) there are minibuses. The price is 10 dinars, on the way 2 hours. From the hotel to the taxi station, take a taxi, tell the driver the phrase "lyuzh stasyon Humt Suk", he will understand. About minibuses in Tunisia read our review "Shuttles in Tunisia ".
Guests of other resorts in Tunisia should first get to the city of Gabes by train or bus, as you can read about our reviews of " Trains in Tunisia for tourists " and " Buses in Tunisia for tourists ".
In Gabes you need to get to the bus station, take a taxi, tell the driver the phrase "ger rutee". From the bus station to Tatavin bus runs twice a day - at 7-00 and 14-30. Or take a bus. On the way - 2,5 hours.
Price of visit
The entrance is free.
In the first yard there is an impromptu cafe, where for 1 dinar you can drink Bedouin bitter tea "chir". For the current exchange rate see our article " Tunisian Dinar ".
In Ksar-Ould-Soltan, several artists sell their paintings for 20 dinars, see the picture on the left, click to enlarge. They can order a picture of themselves against the backdrop of the sights, the price is negotiable.
Artist at the same time you will see only one, but only 7 people - one for each day of the week.
Round the clock.
Seven days a week.
Tips for tourists
- Since there is not even a simple store in Ksar-Ould-Soltan, there is nowhere to buy water. Be sure to store water on the trip;
- If you want to spend a lot of time here, grab the snack;
- Do not let go of the taxi driver. If he leaves, then calling a taxi back will be problematic.
- In the summer it can be very hot, and there is almost no place to hide from the heat, inside the gulf it is stuffy and hot. Dress in light and light clothes. Read our reviews " Weather in Tunisia " and " What to bring with you to Tunisia ".
Have a nice trip to Ksar-Ould-Soltan, and read our interesting articles about Tunisia ( links below ).
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