Houmt Souk is the main town of the island of Djerba. There was no city here originally, the marketplace of the island received place here merely.
The settlement altogether hardly one and a half kilometres long, but in the knowledge of the diverse history of Djerba , in sights is rich. Most of the residents speak French as fluently as Arabic.
More ancient monuments are waiting for you: Sidi Zitoun mausoleum, the Strangers' Mosque and Houmt Souk historical fortress Borj Ghazi Mustapha, also known as Borj el-Kebir; the Romans built the building yet, then the Aragonian king took possession of it, but extended in the 16th by the Spanish. It is possible to get into the bastion fortress on a bridge built up in the 19. century, from the top there is a beautiful view of the bay.
The picturesque and labyrinthine bazaar is full of violent but kind vendors. Market days are held two times weekly, in front of the Strangers' Mosque on Mondays and Thursdays; you can buy typical Djerbian woollen blankets woven since the time of Hannibal (usually red, in traditional geometric patterns) here.
You may get jewels including the magic talisman Hand of Fatma, leather goods and beautiful carpets at a good price. Here is also possible to bargain, but you have to know, that most merchandise is made in factories already today and mainly designed to cater for tourists.
The name Guellala means “strange death,” which came from a legend of killing somebody by a stone. There are said to be some 450 potters in this tiny village, the center for the hand manufacture of exquisite ceramics ("les Dieux de l’Argile"!!!).
If you are interested in ceranics, you should visit at least one of their workshops. These are the only places in the whole country, where can be introduced, how genuine ceramic was made in the time of King Midas.
The clay used by the potters is mixed with water - fresh water for red pottery, salt water for white. The pottery has to dry for two months before fired for four days in kilns, where it remains for another ten days to cool gradually.
The main attraction in the main street is the only souvenir stall, where you can bargain for good pottery vessels. Another speciality of these artisans are the magic camel mugs. A jug looks like a camel's head with hole in the bottom and the top, which do not let out water. You fill water into one of the holes, turn the jug, and no water leak out.
There is also a museum located somewhat outside of the actual village. This museum is really worth seeing with attached café/restaurant, a small art gallery, a minaret and naturally sufficient place for the mandatory stands for souvernirs of all kinds. It enjoys large popularity also among Tunisian visitors of the mainland.
For people fascinated by funny creatures, next to the lighthouse on the way to Midoun the Farm of Crocodiles is the place for a frightening encounter.
In a great park, constructed like a traditional village you can find the farm, home to hundreds of "man-eater" Nile River crocodiles, that at full growth can be as long as 5 - 6 metres! Crocodiles seem to be rather lazy creatures, but in the time of feeding they can move as speedy as lightning, to catch their food!!
The spectacular sights of these sunning creatures with their jaws opened, guarantee, you will remember Djerba for the rest of your lives.
Except the farm, I have not visited other sites of the park, because I was told, this artificial village is nothing else, than a real tourist trap.
The La Ghriba ("Wonderworking") synagogue is the oldest one in the world, dating from around the time of the second temple in Jerusalem, but the present buildings are not older than cca. a century.
Legend about its foundation says, that the site was chosen when a "holy stone" ( a meteorite? ) fell from the sky here. It is believed that the inner sanctuary preserves the oldest Torahs scrolls.
But the community itself is also one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dates its arrival after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem.
The Synagogue can be visited by the non-Jews too, but they should take off their shoes, wear a head covering and leave a small gift on their visit.
In 2002 a sadly accident happened here, when a gas lorry crashed into the building, the explosion caused the death of twenty-one men, among them tourists'.
On 21 December 2002 a new crocodile park opened within the cultural and tourist complex called “Djerba Explore”. The 6000m2 park, dedicated exclusively to crocodiles, is home to a group of 400 Nile crocodiles ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 m in length. These crocodiles arrived in Tunisia in December 1998 from a farm in Madagascar. Crocodiles are rather lazy, they don’t like to waste their energy but everything changes when the time of feeding comes. In summer they are fed every day.
Entrance fee: 12 dinar
Real Jerban life is not really on display in Midoun the town with +/-15.000 INH. It is situated near the Zone touristique. Visitors can buy everything they want and don’t want to buy in fairly ordinary souvenir shops. Some of the old life returns on Fridays, which is market day. You can reach Midoun by taxi from the zone touristique for 2/5 dinar.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any information on this fort. All I can tell you is that it's near the harbor in Houmt Souk and it costs 3 Dinar to enter. All the information on the fort is in French and Arabic.
Located in Hara Seghira, this synagogue site is about 2,000 years old, making it the oldest synagogue in Africa and one of the oldest in the world.
They said this synagogue is home to the oldest Torah in the world.
According to an oral tradition, it was built by Jewish priests who had immigrated after the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem. The present building dates from the 19th century and replaces one built in the 16th century.
You can find a lot of information on Tunisian culture at this large museum on top of a hill overlooking the town of Guellala. It's worth about a 2-hour visit to really appreciate everything they've put together.
All displays have explanations in Arabic, French, German and English.
Entrance fee is 6 Dinar.
This beautiful museum is situated on a little hill, so you when you get up there, you can have an amazing view of the island and the sea. The building itself is really stunning, and inside you can find hisotry museum od Djerba. They have whole Tunisian wedding ceremony shown in statues, camels, men whisc writes in caligraphy and can write you a name or sthg, and a little coffie house with best coffie and fresh orange juice in Djerba.
The synagogue at El Ghriba in the interior of Jerba is an interesting place to visit. A Jewish community has existed in Jerba for a long time, with some claiming they arrived in 586 BC while others put the date at 71 AD. Either way, it's clear they've been here a long time. For the most part, they have co-existed peacefully with the Kharijite and Sunni Muslims, though there have been a couple of incidents in the last 25 years which have threatened the community's existence.
The first of these was in 1985 when a local police officer burst into the synagogue and killed 3 people. A more high profile incident happened in 2002 when a tanker of gas was blown up by a Tunisian with links to Al-Qaida. Twenty tourists as well as the bomber were killed in the incident.
Security at the synagogue is, not surprisingly, very high. We had to put our bags through airport style metal detectors before entering the building. The guards were friendly, however, and after asking us where we had come from they even offered us some of their lunch.
The synagogue is said to be a place of pilgrimage for Jews from all over North Africa. An old story claims that the synagogue was constructed at the place where a holy stone fell from heaven and that the synagogue's key will be thrown back to heaven when the final Jew leaves Jerba.
Once you've made it through security you can visit the synagogue and other parts of the building. The interior of the synagogue is ornately decorated and there are a few exhibits on the wall which tell the history of the Jews in Jerba. While we found it interesting I think it would be appreciated much more by someone who is Jewish. Afterwards we walked around the rest of the complex which consisted of abandoned rooms built around courtyards.
The synagogue is about 1.5 km outside Hara Sghira, which itself is no more than a small village, though there are transport links from Houmt Souk. It costs 3D to visit the synagogue and it's open from Mon-Thu from 7-5 and on Friday from 7-2.
Djerba has one of the best and most beautiful beaches in Tunisia, with a pleasantly warm climate. These beaches offer you the opportunity to have carefree and relaxing holidays in a friendly and comfortable environment.
It is said that Djerba is a land of dreams, created by nature to enchant the imagination of the human soul.
Covered with trees and flowers, the island is in reality one huge oasis covered with date palms and olive trees, some over 3000 years old. In between, small fields of apricots, carobs, figs, grapes, grenadines, lemons, mandarins, oranges and pomegranates cover almost every empty space
Midoun is the second largest town in Jerba, after Houmt Souk. It's the nearest town to Sidi Mahares and the East coast of the islands, where most of the tourist hotels are located. Hence, Midoun gets a fair number of visitors. This is reflected in its central market where almost everything on sale was for the benefits of these tourists. Aside from the market, there isn't too much else for visitors to see. There are a couple of nice mosques, though they are closed to non Muslims, and an olive press workshop where you can observe how olive oil is produced.
Most visitors to Jerba come on package deals and stay in the hotels out on the East coast at Sidi Mahares. Independent travellers are better off staying in Houmt Souk, the main town in Jerba, and probably the best place to base yourself on the island. It has a good choice of hotels and restaurants, plenty of nice mosques and it's quite a nice town despite all the souvenir shops.