Rumskys Repositioned from the Caribbean to Europe and Back Again travel blog

Our awesome taxi driver to Ksar Ouled Soltane in "Tatooine"

The site is much larger than pictures show.

Fran bravely climbs to the top.

Some of his bravery rubs off on me...

This site is just incredible!

Loving the little alleys

Fusball, anyone?

The birds warn us about this snake!

Our artist friend searches in vain for the poisonous snake...

Our artist friend welcomes us to his shop

Posing on Ksar Medinine, our second Star Wars site

This large ksar covers several different squares

People still live in parts of the ksar.

Lovely local guide takes us around this fascinating museum

She shows us the working of this cool old-style lock.

Interesting and friendly locals at the market make for a great outing.

Need gold??

Love this portable shop!

Our wonderful hosts in Medenine

Our hostess serves us amazing healthy food every day

Outing to a small countryside town yields more graneries...

Renovated caravanserais are all over Djerba

Beautiful centuries-old architecture everywhere

Extensive Djerba museum gives loads of great information

Now this is the way to thresh wheat!

How cute are we?

Fran gives this thirsty camel a drink

Super-cool caves where clay is dug for Djerban pottery

Watching this talented potter at work...

Colorful fruits of his labors

Prayers softly infuse life into this synagogue

We got up early to catch the louage back to new Chenini. After waiting for about an hour and a half, the first louage came, refused to allow us on board, and took off. Wow, there was a lot of swearing and complaining that came after that. Somehow another louage came shortly thereafter, expecting us, and allowed us right on. We don't know if it's because our airbnb hosts called earlier, or if a local took pity on us and called someone from a shop. Or maybe we just got lucky with the second louage. Regardless, we quickly found ourselves on a busy street in the middle of what we took for new Chenini.

Our destination was Medenine, where another incredibly helpful airbnb hostess, Leila, was waiting for us. In fact, she had helped us plan our trip beforehand and was one of the main reason for our being in southern Tunisia. By that point, Fran and I had looked at some of the regional highlights, mainly the Star Wars sights. We agreed that Ksar Ouled Soltane was worth a visit, but we weren't sure how that would come about. Now in the middle of Chenini, it was crunch time! We were pleasantly surprised by a local who came over and, after showing him the picture of the Ksar I had saved on my phone, he tried to help us organize a louage there in English. Unfortunately, negotiations broke down when he told us we would have to work with the driver on being picked up. We had no confidence in our skills to arrange, in French, a return trip from the middle of nowhere, with all our belongings in tow. We decided to bite the bullet and hire a cab instead. Again, luck was with us as a cab pulled up just in front of us and disgorged its passengers. We accosted the driver, showed him our picture, and again to our delight, he spoke a little English and offered a reasonable rate for the outing. Off we went!

This was our first of several Ksars, which are ancient graneries or "ghorfas" set up by the nomadic Berber people to protect their food from raids and the elements. Some date back to the 1400s, and some are even still used for storage and living quarters. These structures are unique in their own right, but have earned fame through being featured as "slave quarters" in the Star Wars movies. My research over the internet showed a few isolated shots of these structures. Let me just say that the photos did not do them justice in the least. I figured, you see one, you see them all. That turned out not to be our experience. In total we saw three different Ksars, the Ksar Ouled Soltane, the Medenine Ksar, and the Ksar in Beni Khedache. Each one was unique and worth seeing in its own right. Part of the fun of the Ksar Ouled Soltane, for example, was getting to know our taxi driver and also, meeting the artist who has taken up shop at the ksar. The day became quite exciting as we watched birds trying to fend off a snake that our artist friend said was quite poisonous. Later, the Medenine Ksar was super cool, and definitely not to be missed for anyone visiting that city. It offered great aerial city views, as well as an intriguing glimpse into the life of the local people living in the ksar and shopping at the adjacent market. Perhaps even better, one portion of the ksar has been refurbished by a Tunisian man into a full blown museum. He started with an extensive stamp and coin collection, then grew his offerings into life-sized dioramas of ancient and nomadic customs, large displays of curious artifacts, and guided discussions of Tunisian history, followed by a bit of tea at the end. We spent quite a bit of time in this interesting place and encourage everyone to pay it a visit.

We asked Leila and her husband, former teachers, for their recommendations and they directed us to take a louage to the nearby village of Beni Khedache to see our third ksar. I found it fascinating that landscape that I saw as very similar to that I'd already seen was described by Leila as quite different. I was reminded of how the Bedouin must view their environment, seeing each peak and valley in the vast desert sand as some type of unique landmark, out of necessity as they traversed such a harsh land. We found the small town and ksars to be interesting, as they were in their more natural form without the George Lucas treatment given to the other two.

But this last outing was overshadowed by our excellent visit to the island of Djerba. Leila had told us, in advance, that we would be able to take a louage to the main town of Djerba, and then hire a taxi to drive us around the highlights. We easily managed the louage there, and instantly fell in love with the town, lingering in the caravanseraii renovated into lovely hotels, shops, and restaurants, the fortress overlooking the sea, and the extensive museum. Running out of time, we hailed a cab and asked him to show us the highlights of the rest of the island. Wow, did he ever do a fantastic job! We just managed to find a cab driver who used to work in the tourist office and spoke perfect English. Sadly, due to the lack of tourists, he has had to drive a cab since the revolution. His loss turned out to be our gain, however, for we could not have asked for a better time with our driver, Ben Yaala Aymen.

Limited to only two hours before our louage was due to leave, Ben took us on a quick but complete tour of Djerba. He made sure to prioritize all the important sights and agree on a reasonable rate to do so. Our first stop was the huge, very interesting museum and he gave us a brief commentary on all of the life-sized displays there. He also made sure we got a chance to ride on the camel threshing machine and snap some photos! That was a lot of fun. Next he took us down into the underground tunnels where clay is excavated for the area's famous pottery. He pointed out the process for preparing the clay, and then we watched an artisan in action. Lastly, we made a visit to the Jewish synagogue, one of the few in the predominantly Muslim country. In fact, security is so great that they wouldn't even let him in. The synagogue was a beautiful building and our short visit was enhanced by the rabbi's rhythmic chanting. Overall, the outing and our time with Ben was fantastic, and we only wished we hadn't dilly-dallyed so much in the beginning of the day. I guess the moral of the story is to allow yourself plenty of time to discover Djerba (especially with Ben). You will love it!

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