Medenine Tourist Attractions
Chief town of the governorate of MédenineSituation and characteristicsThe little administrative and market town of Médenine is - like Tataouine - a good center from which to visit the hill villages in the surrounding area.
Originally Médenine was an important staging point on the caravan route from the interior of Africa. During the French protectorate it was a garrison town and the administrative center of southern Tunisia.The town originally consisted of an assemblage of numerous ksour (fortified storehouses), with a total of over 6,000 ghorfas. In these ksour (singular ksar) the semi-nomadic families kept their possessions while they went on their wanderings, each family having its own ghorfa (store-room, granary). These little barrel-vaulted cells were built side by side and one over the other in honeycomb-like blocks up to six storys high. During the 1960s most of them were pulled down, and Médenine is now a predominantly modern town. On the road to Djorf there are still a few two-story ghorfas, now occupied by souvenir shops.There are large markets in Médenine on Mondays and Thursdays.AccessMédenine lies on GP 1 (Gabès-Ben Gardane), 73km/45mi south of Gabès, 77km/48mi northwest of Ben Gardane and 62km/39mi west of Zarzis. Regular bus services to and from Tataouine, Djorf, Zarzis and Ben Gardane; bus station (Gare Routière) on Tataouine road.
One of the finest and most visited of the villages in the area of Médenine is Chenini, 18km/11mi west of Tataouine. A whitewashed mosque stands out prominently against the earth-colored and partly ruined ghorfas clinging to the slopes of the hill. Near the cemetery, between two hills, is the rock-cut Mosque of the Seven Giants, with seven long tombs.20km/12.5mi south is Douirat.ExcursionAn attractive excursion from Médenine is by way of Ksar Djouama (view), Beni Kheddache, El Hallouf oasis (detour from Beni Kheddache), Ksar Haddada (part of which is now a small hotel), Ghoumrassen (with the marabout of Sidi Arfa, a local holy man) and Huermessa to Tataouine.
The village of Douirat (pop. 1,000), 13km/8mi southwest of Tataouine, is reached by taking the road to Remada (MC 112) and in 9km/6mi turning off into a track running west. On top of the hill is a ksar, and lower down are abandoned cave dwellings, the former inhabitants of which now live in new houses at the foot of the hill.
Ksar Soltane, Tunisia
10km/6mi southeast of Tataouine (leave on Beni Barka road, then turn off into a road signposted to Maztouria and Tamellest) is Ksar Soltane, part of which is well preserved, with groups of ghorfas built round two inner courtyards. The oldest date from the 15th century, the youngest from the 19th.
49km/30mi south of Médenine is Tataouine (or Foum Tataouine), a relatively young town (pop. 7,000; market on Thursdays) which has grown out of a military camp. Like Médenine, it is a good base for visits to the hill villages. This is the scene, annually in March/April, of the Ksar Festival (Festival des Ksours Sahariens), in which Berber tribesmen from all over southern Tunisia take part. The program of this five-day event includes equestrian games and sports, representations of Berber weddings, camel races, etc.
Between Gabès to the north and the Libyan frontier to the south extends the desertic steppe country of the Djeffara plain, which has been since the seventh century the home of Arab and Arabised semi-nomads, whose tents can still occasionally be seen. Numbers of deserted ghorfas show, however, that the centuries-old way of life of the nomads belongs to the past. The ghorfas are now falling into ruin or, here and there, being restored and refurbished for the benefit of tourists.
6km/4mi north of Médenine is Metameur, with a large complex of ghorfas part of which has been converted into a hotel. In recent years most of the town's ghorfas have been pulled down; a few have been restored for the tourist trade. From Metameur there is an easily negotiable track (MC 104) to Toujane. The hill road from there to Matmata, however, is only to be recommended for experienced drivers with an all-terrain vehicle. Matmata is best visited from Gabès.
Dahar Hills, Tunisia
On the inland side of the Djeffara plain are the Dahar Hills, a narrow ridge (dahar) of upland country rising to 600m/2,000ft which falls down to the plain in a series of steps. The Dahar Hills are the home of the Djebalia, a Berber tribe who were driven back into the hills by the raiding Beni Hilal in the 11th century. Their five villages with their ghorfas and ksour are now tourist attractions.
Ben Gardane, Tunisia
80km/50mi east of Médenine is Ben Gardane (pop. 2,500; market on Fridays), a little town founded by the French in 1892. From here it is only 33km/21mi to the Libyan frontier.
Beni Barka, Tunisia
8km/5mi south of Tataouine, prominently situated on a hill, is the village of Beni Barka, with a ruined ksar. The origins of the village go back to the 14th century.
To the west of Médenine and Tataouine are numbers of picturesque old hill villages, some of which, however, are difficult of access.
The hill village of Toujane, picturesquely situated on the slopes of Kef Toujane (632m/2,074ft), is famed for its woven fabrics and its excellent honey.