The art of ceramics and pottery is rooted in the local traditions of the Maghreb countries . Indeed, one used, since the antiquity, the terracotta tanks like the earthenware jars to store and preserve harvests of corn, lens, dates and olive oil. Oil lamps and small figurines based on clay are used in the ceremonies of marriages to carry happiness and move away bad spirits. These same articles found at the time of the excavations of the prehistoric coffins confirm the ancestral aspect of this art.
You can buy it almost everywhere.
What to pay: You’ll need to bargain for a good price.
This wonderful gift shop is situated in the Medina (souk) of Midoun, small town located in the middle of the island. I bought some souvenirs here and spend half an hour in chatting with the owner who offered me traditional Tunisian tea.
The shop reminded me alot to Sidi Bou Said, which I have visited last summer, where I have seen such a coloured furniture. As the owner told me, it is the traditional furniture which can be seen in the most of the Tunisian houses.
Outside of the souk, a whole row of shops present more djellabahs of various color and design and a few Gafsa carpets. These Gafsa carpets can be used either as carpets, laid on the soil, or as a kind of tapestry, hanged on a wall.
In front of a vaulted narrow passage that leads to the souk, clothes of various kinds are hanged. They look more like tourist stuff that is not designed for a long use than actual clothes for locals, that are much stronger and better sewed.
This photo shows the traditional garments of two Djerbian women, one is in black and the other in white cloth. Both have a thin red stripe at the bottom of their djellabah and a wider stripe slant across the middle of the garment. They walk in front of a shop that sells cloth.
This photo was not taken in Djerba but in Gafsa, where this kind of rugs is made. I thought it was interesting to drop it near the carpet for sale. The frame of the rug is vertical and the woman knit the threads at eye level.
You might perhaps have noticed one feature that is very surprising with these rugs. While the Moslem religion, brought in Tunisia by the Arabs, forbids any representation of humans and animals, these rugs represent stylized figures of men and of women, of a camel and goats on the previous rug, of a lion and camels on this one. These traditional designs might be the remnant of the old Berber traditions that does not forbid these representations.
The Gafsa rugs have typically a design made of squares. The squares are alternatively dark or pale, which already gives them a special pattern. The colors are very bright. This one has a lot of reds, oranges, browns, blues and reds.
Rugs are hung between both sides of this side street, close to the market. Their design is typical of Gafsa. They are not knotted as in Kairouan but knitted rugs. On the next photos, you will see more of the design.
A little further on the market, on the square, a merchant sells more bulk spices. On the right, an old "Roberval" scale is used to weight the goods. I suppose that the "couffin" (a basket, not a coffin !) with bread and the moped are not for sale ! But the straw hats, typical of Tunisia, are for sale.
On this close-up of a dish, you can better see the blue décor, made of stylized vines with leaves, buds and fully open flowers. They look fictional and do not seem to correspond to any plant known by botanists !
The earth ware dishes and vases are beautifully decorated. They are lined on the soil, for your pleasure. The décor shown here does not seem to be produced in Guellala but might come from other potter's places, on the continent.
When it is not for a gossip, sitting in the shade, under a palm tree, can be a nice rest between two haggling. If you enlarge the photo, you will see the superbly carved stick of the man with the red cap. These red caps are typical of Tunisian men, especially in cities.
But the market is also a place for socializing and a lot of gossip takes place between regular merchants and customers. These two guys, sit by the side of a bunch of dry hot chilies, seem to have a very good time, don't they !
Oranges are a main crop in Tunisia. The "Maltaise" is a variety of oranges originally grown in Malta. It is rather small but very juicy and tasty. In my opinion, the are the tastiest of all oranges. They are sold in Tunisia and in France (I do not know for other countries) under the name of "Maltaises de Tunisie". They are harvested from early January to late March.