Djerba was well-known during ancient times, since Ulysses, Homer’s hero, stopped over here. First it was Carthaginian and then Roman. There are Roman ruins on the island: Meninx, near El Kantara, is the 6 km Roman road that still links the island to the continent Djerba is the only site in Tunisia for the adepts of the ‘schismatic’ Muslim sect, the Kharejites.
Djerba is 25 km long and 22 km wide, with a 514-km2 area. It has a 125 km coastline. Because of the influence of a moderate sea, the climate is very mild. Djerba has a population of about 80,000. It is largely of Berber origin and Muslim with a small Kharegite minority. The Jewish community, which is very small today, was been well-established on the island, well before the Arabs, and probably for more than twenty or twenty-five centuries. Apart from the county town of Houmt Souk, the rest of the island consists of small villages with scattered housing: Sedghiane, Midoun, Sedouikech, Guellala, Agim... Arboriculture is practiced here: palm, olive, vine trees, fig, apple, almond, apricot, orange and pomegranate. The island also produces vegetables and cereals. The surroundings of the island are favorable to fishing. The main handicrafts are weaving and pottery. The Souks In the heart of the medina, the souks are a network of small shop-lined narrow alleys. The souks are always lively. Here you can find cloth, carpets, utensils and jewelry. The jewellers’ souk reflects the island’s prosperity. Handicraft shops are numerous, for instance, weavers and blacksmiths...
In the souk and foundouk area, there are four religious monuments - Zaouia Sidi Brahim El Jemni, a complex including a medersa, a bakery, a hammam and a mausoleum; Jemaa el Ghorba (The Mosque of Foreigners), of the Malekite rite; Jemaa et Trouk (The Mosque of the Turks), a Hanefite rite. Jemaa ech Cheikh (Ech Cheikh Mosque) is the main Ibadite sanctuary (Kaharejite).
The Museum of Popular Art & Traditions:
The museum enables visitors to discover the wealth of the island’s folklore. The collection is well-presented, with detailed explanations. Here you will find a rich treasure of costumes from various social and ethnic groups, jewels made by Jewish craftsmen, volumes of the Koran, plus trunks, kitchen utensils, a reconstructed pottery workshop with examples of pottery, large amphorae, ornamental plaster-work and ancient ceramic tiles. From Houmt Souk, you can travel by boat to the very end of the Ras er Rmel sandy peninsula. Here the beach is beautiful, the water is pure and the landscape is untouched. Organised excursions, with delicious lunches, are available.
Jews in Tunisia:
The first Jews probably arrived in Tunisia at the end of the 6th century A.D following the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Some of them settled in Djerba. The first wave probably built the Ghriba Synagogue, a major religious shrine. Other groups settled in the country after Titus’s occupation of Jerusalem and the deportations he ordered in 70 A.D.
The Spanish community arrived by the end of the 14th century, and also in 1492 when the Christians re-conquered Spain. Some came direct, others arrived after a stay in Leghorn in Italy. These are the Jews from Leghorn also known as Grana Jews. An Exceptional World Ajim is the main island port, with the Jorf ferry pier. In addition to the Roman road, the ferry linksthe island to the continent.
Ajim is also a fishing port well-known for its sponge fishing. In the vicinity, you can find the most dense palm tree grove in the area. Although the dates are not of the best quality, the palm trees do produce the legmi juice, which is obtained from the base of the branches. The juice is sweet, and quickly ferments to become an alcoholic drink.
Guellala is the Island’s capital of pottery, and is a charming little village. Mahboubine is a garden-village, located in the middle of vineyards, fruit and olive groves. The Jemaa el Kareb (El Kareb Mosque) is interesting. The best menzels are found just outside the village.
Midoun, the island’s second-largest village after Houmt Souk, has a number of mosques. Its weekly outdoor market is held on Fridays and sells fruit, vegetables, fish, pottery, baskets and mats.
Sedghiane Some of the most beautiful orchards are found in Sedghiane.
The Island of El Kantara This is the beginning of the Roman road. Just a few kilometers to the north, you can find traces of ancient Meninx, founded ten centuries before Christ. The Phoenicians established workshops here for producing purple dye. You can also visit the ruins of a major Christian basilica, capitols, and marble columns.
Zarzis Facing the island of Djerba is the beautiful tourist resort of Zarzis. This sponge fishing harbor was built upon the remains of the ancient Roman city of “Gergis” and benefits from a marvelous site in a palm grove in the middle of olive groves. The wonderful beaches of Zarzis made it possible for the area to become a tourist resort. Surrounding the beaches are rocky areas, where harpoon fishing can be practiced.