Oases of Chebika, Tamerza and Midès
An attractive excursion from Tozeur, through beautiful scenery, is into the hills of Djebel en Negueb (900m/2,950ft), an offshoot of the Atlas Mountains running from east to west. In this area, in which the Romans built a series of forts as the outworks of their defensive line, the Limes Tripolitanus, are the three little upland oases of Chebika, Tamerza and Midès. These oases owe their fertility to the numerous little mountain streams whose water seeps into the ground and to the ground-water which is tapped by wells of varying depth. The water is conveyed through a system of underwater channels at a gentle gradient to the cultivated land, water for private consumption being taken off on the way. Here as in other oases the three-stage system of planting is followed, with palms providing shade for fruit-trees (apricots, peaches, pomegranates, bananas, citrus fruits and olives), under which in turn are vegetables, tobacco and corn.AccessLeave Tozeur on the Gafsa road (GP 3), which traverses the oasis of El Hamma du Djerid (see below), and immediately beyond the oasis take a road on the left which runs northwest, crosses the Chott el Rharsa and comes to Chebika, beyond which are Tamerza and Midès. The road is an experience in itself. On the whole it presents no problems, though after a sandstorm stretches of the road may be blown away or interrupted by small sand-dunes.
El Hamma du Djerid, Tunisia
The oasis of El Hamma du Djerid lies on the southeastern edge of the Chott el Rharsa, 9km/6mi north of Tozeur on the Gafsa road (GP 3). There are four small villages - El Erg, Mhareb, Msaaba and Nemlet - with a total population of 3,500. The oasis has an area of some 700 hectares/1,750 acres and contains 110,000 palms, which are supplied with water by 20 springs. Among them are six hot springs (37-40°C/99-104°F) containing chlorine, sodium chloride and sulfur which were already being used by the Romans for medicinal purposes - there are remains of a Roman settlement 1km/.75mi from Nemlet - and are still frequented by the local people for the treatment of skin complaints, neuralgia and arthritis. A "complex touristique" (hotels, spa treatment facilities) is under construction at these springs.In recent years a completely new plantation of date-palms, the Domaine de l'Oasis, has been established by a private company on the north side of the oasis. This has involved the sinking of deep wells to tap reservoirs of fossil ground-water at depths of between 600m/2,000ft and 1,000m/3,300ft. Thanks to these wells, which operate much more effectively than those in Tozeur and Nefta (yielding a total flow, including both springs and wells, of 1,900 liters/420 gallons per second), and to the adoption of modern methods of cultivation (e.g. looser planting at only 150 palms to the hectare, or 60 to the acre) yields are four times as high as at Tozeur, six times as high as in the rest of the oasis and ten times as high as at Nefta.
El Ouidane, Tunisia
9km/6mi east of El Hamma is the oasis of El Ouidane, with several small villages, the most important of which are Degache and Kriz, respectively 16km/10mi and 32km/20mi from Tozeur. They can be reached either by way of GP 3, turning off at El Hamma, or directly on MC 106.The oasis has a total population of 100,000, who grow dates (220,000 palms), citrus fruits, figs and olives (35,000 trees). All the villages are situated above the palm-groves on poor stony soil.There are no sights of particular importance. In Ouled Majed, near Degache, there is an ancient little mud-brick mosque with a minaret built on Roman foundations.Beyond Ouled Majed in the direction of Kriz can be found the marabout of Sidi Mohammed Krisane, and in Seddada the marabout of Sidi Bou Hilal, a well known place of pilgrimage.
Chebika, on the site of a Roman military post called Ad Speculum, is a small village of stone and mud-brick houses, situated on the slopes of a hill above the palm-grove; the old village, now abandoned, is built into the hillside behind it. The springs which supply the oasis with water are in a picturesque deep gorge 500m/550yds beyond the village. A road running along the foot of the hill passes the oasis of El Khanga and then winds its way steeply up for 10km/6mi to enter the valley of the Oued Khanga.
Directly on the Algerian frontier is the little oasis of Midès, on the site of the Roman frontier fort of Mades. It lies on the edge of two canyons 60m/200ft deep. The return to Tozeur can be by way of Redeyef, Moularès and Metlaoui.
Oases of the Djerid
The oases of Nefta (23km/14mi west of Tozeur) and Gabès, on the Gulf of Gabès, are both densely populated. In these oases are grown the top quality deglat en nour dates, most of which are exported.