When my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to join her on a trip to Djerba, Tunisia, I immediately said yes. Not so much because I had been wanting to visit Tunisia (you know me, I would like to go pretty much anywhere), but because it was a good opportunity to see her again after the last time I met her – way too long ago – in Nicaragua.
Find out more about Nicaragua on my post “Awesome things to do in Nicaragua.”
So close to my homeland Sardinia, yet a world apart, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with this Northern Africa country. The landscape, the atmosphere, the people of the lovely island of Djerba (the largest of North Africa) made my visit memorable and I have resolved to go again as soon as possible and spend more time there.
Here are ten reasons why I think anybody should visit Djerba.
Ten reasons to visit Djerba
The beaches are gorgeous and the sea oh so clear
I am spoiled when it comes to the sea: I grew up in Sardinia and I know what a beautiful beach is supposed to look like. I make a fuss if the water isn’t clear enough or if the beach is not to my standards. Djerba is beach perfection: a piece of Caribbean heaven at a stone’s throw. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw how clear the water was, and needless to say, I sprinted to jump in it, much to the amusement of my friend.
Find out more about Sardinian beaches on my post “How I got to one of the best beaches in Sardinia (and almost killed myself there).”
The cultural heritage is very interesting
Lella Hadria museum is a good introduction to the history of the island, whereas the Museum of Art and Traditions a good place to learn a bit more about its culture. Yet, one of the top places to visit in Djerba is Djerba Explore, a park that reproduces a traditional Tunisian village – including several homes and a well which functions with a camel – and where it is possible to get a full understanding of the traditional way of life on the island.
Djerba is multicultural and an example of the peaceful cohexistance of different religious groups
Before visiting Djerba, I knew very little about it. I had no idea that there is a Jewish minority that lives on the island – around 1500 people against a total of 160000. I had the chance of seeing the Lag Ba’omer, a celebration which takes place on the 33rd day after the Jewish Easter and that in Djerba is celebrated at the Ghriba. Located in Hara Sghira, Djerba’s Ghriba is the oldest synagogue of Africa, built in 586 BC.
On this occasion, Jewish from all over Tunisia as well as other countries gather for the celebrations and for prayers. An old ritual sees women writing their names on eggs, praying for fertility and marriage, and throw them with the rest in the hope to see their wishes come true. Men read their prayers.
On the other side of the synagogue, in the caravanserai built in the early 20th century to host the pilgrims and now no longer used, people dressed up for the occasion gather for the most mundane part of the celebration: eating, drinking, chatting and playing. The atmosphere is lively, festive yet relaxed.
There is some amazing street art
A whopping 150 international artists have participated in Djerbahood, a project to paint the walls of Erriadh, a traditional village in Djerba. Seeing one of the oldest villages in Tunisia colored with some beautiful murals is a unique experience.
There are great shopping opportunities
I love traditional markets and the suq in Djerba didn’t disappoint me at all. Shops sell fantastic souvenirs – mostly ceramics but also lovely cotton fabric – at a real steal (but haggling is the rule here) and the overall look of the area is stunning. White buildings stand against the blue sky, dotted by the blue of the doors and windows. The atmosphere is relaxed, yet busy. All in all truly enjoyable.
The food is delicious
I am a picky eater, but food in Djerba did not disappoint me at all. Fresh salads, delicious fruit juices (my favorite is the strawberry juice), cous cous, grilled tuna, seared fish. Every time I sat for a meal, it was a real feast for my taste buds. Not to mention, I loved the mint tea (preferably with pine nuts) that was served after each meal.
There are some fantastic places to stay
Djerba is a popular tourist destination that is packed with all-inclusive resorts. Yet, the best places to stay are the beautiful boutique hotels that are scattered across the island. Dar Dhiafa is a small hotel composed of a series of traditional homes, all refurbished to keep the authentic Djerba style and at the same time guarantee guests the maximum comfort.
Dar Bibine puts together a traditional Tunisian home with modern design to guarantee comfort and a lovely environment. It definitely is one of the best places to stay in Djerba and one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen.
People are truly lovely
People in Djerba are really kind and friendly. Wherever I walked, I was met with a welcoming smile, a kind word and a shy curiosity. Tunisians all speak French, and lot of them also speak Italian and English so it was really easy to communicate. Finding such nice people made my stay there truly memorable.
There’s cats all over
It is no secret that I love cats. Visiting a place and seeing cats roam around makes it all the more charming to me and this is one of the reasons I love Djerba. My only hope is that animal welfare is properly implemented here, and that cats as well as other animals are treated well and given proper veterinary care such as spaying and neutering to begin with.
The pace of life is relaxed
Nobody in Djerba ever seems to be in a rush. People calmly go by their daily business and always find time to chat with their friends, have a mint tea in the middle of the day, enjoy the marine breeze that cools off the island in the late afternoon.
It’s easy to see why I feel in love with Djerba and I can’t wait to visit again and explore more of it.
Have you ever been to Djerba? What did you enjoy the most about it?