The park was opened in 2002 within the cultural and tourist complex called Djerba Explore. The 6000 m2 park is home to 400 Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) that are five years old and ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 m in length. They were brought from a farm in Madagascar in 1998 and raised in other part of Tunisia.
Park offers its visitors pleasant walks around and above pools ringed by natural palm trees, in a desert setting. A greenhouse with a heating system has been built to provide warmth for crocodiles during cold winter nights, and the crocodiles have been trained to return into the greenhouse when it is cold outside. Tropical vegetation has been planted inside to contrast with the outside, providing the full, unique experience of visiting North Africa.
Right now they have for months old little crocodiles.
On the left, the Synagogue itself is standing with its vaulted entrance. In Djerba is living the oldest Jewish community of the Maghreb (Northern Africa). The oral traditions says that when the first temple of Jerusalem was destroyed under king Nabuchodonosor, in 565 BC, the servants of the Temple, the "Cohanim" (plural of Cohen) escaped from the slaughter and sailed to Djerba with a door from the Temple that they buried where they built the first Ghriba. In the following centuries, Jews from other tribes settled in Djerba too.
For Sepharadic Jews, the Ghriba is a holy place, the holiest of all the Maghreb. Each year, the pilgrimage gathers thousands of pilgrims coming not only from the whole Tunisia but also from France, Israël and USA, the three countries where Tunisian Jews have mostly emigrated.
The La Griba or El Ghriba synagogue (the Marvellous) is 9km from Houmt-Souk in the partly Jewish village of Er-Riadh. It has been built in the middle of the 19th century but the first building is thought to have been built in the 6th or 7th century BC, destroyed several times and rebuilt several times.
In daily life, Djerbian Jews speak Arab and French but the rituals are done both in Hebrew and in Aramean. If you enlarge this picture, you will read a benediction for the former President Habib Bourguiba, now dead. On the left, it is in French and on the right in Arab.
The road from Er-Riadh leads to an enclosure wall with an arched entrance that opens into a block of several white buildings.
I visited the Ghriba several times and last time was on April 9th 2002. On April 11th 2002, a suicide bomber drove a gas truck to the proximity of the synagogue. The ensuing explosion resulted in the death of twenty one people, among them fourteen German tourists.
On the right, the large building is the "oukala" or caravanserai that is used at the time of the pilgrimage, each year in may (in 2005 it will be 26 and 27 May). Poor pilgrims will be lodged in the "oukala" and a temporary cosher restaurant will be open.
As you may have already seen on previous photos, the inside of the Ghriba is beautifully decorated with earthenware tiles. The colors are mainly blues but they use also much brown. If you enlarge this picture and the next one, you will see that the design is always geometric but that each area hold a different design of tiles.
This picture was taken in the neighborhood of the Ghriba. It shows a man and a woman in traditional clothing. The traditional clothing is almost the same all over the island but the color of the fabric, the number, size and color of the stripes allow to identify to which village or community each individual belongs.
This poster recalls in four languages, Arab, French, English and German the history of the Ghriba.and appeals to the generosity of the visitors for the maintenance of this holy place, in order to sustain the rabbis that dedicate their life to the study of the Holy Books.
Other Jewish tribes arrived later. They converted local Berbers (later some of them converted to Islam) and settled in "Hara Kebira", the Big Jewish District, in the neighborhood of Houmt Souk where more than 800 of them still live. They used to have various jobs but now they are all goldsmith. This photo shows various votive plates.
The two Jewish communities do not mix. Jews from Hara Kebira are wealthier than those from Hara Sghira and consider themselves as more religious. They come to the Ghriba only for the pilgrimage and otherwise, attend small synagogues close to their home.
This woman carries on her back a terracotta ware jar to fetch water from a village tap or a village well. This picture was taken a few years ago. Now, there are more taps and plastic jars are used instead of terracotta ware jars as they are much lighter to carry !
The Ghriba is surrounded on three sides by olive tree orchards. Most are very old. I doubt that the oldest one have been planted at the time the first synagogue was built but olive trees like the one of the picture may be several centuries old.
The offspring of the Cohanim live in "Hara Sghira", the Small Jewish District, which is a part of the village of Er Riadh. There are about fifty families remaining, that have not emigrated to Israël in the 50s. Most of them work in the Ghriba.