Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
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Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Interiior view of the Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia - This image shows three sides of the courtyard. The fourth side is similar in structure but has an entrance from the first courtyard.
Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Exterior view of the Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Jenny and I departed from our usual practice of using local transport to get around this area. You really need to hire a car to see these villages. There are plenty of hire car companies in Houmt Souq on the island of Djerba. Road signs are quite reasonable and we didn't have any trouble getting around with the aid of a simple map. It is a good day's drive to get to the places mentioned, so start early so you have time to enjoy this interesting area. There are organized tours from Houmt Souq if you are not confident doing it yourself.

Ksar Ouled Soltaine - Berber Village

Although the original Berbers now only make up one percent of the population, most Tunisians are of Arab/Berber stock, so the traditions of these earliest inhabitants of this land feature strongly in the country’s folklore.

Essentially the Berbers were a nomadic people who roamed the lands of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, following the seasons over their time-honoured routes.

Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
The penthouse position in the Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia

As a means of protection against others who moved into their territories, the Berber tribes eventually established permanent villages. 

However, unlike the Berbers of Morocco and Algeria, the tribes in Tunisia had few high mountains in which to hide, so they integrated quickly with the Arab invaders.

The Berber villages are mainly in the Southern part of Tunisia. We visited three distinct types.

Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Inside the second courtyard of the Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Richard and Jenny relaxing at the Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
The hilltop villages are a good example of their wish for protection against invaders; the ksours (the plural of Ksar, the name given to the villages) of the plains show the initial development of semi-permanent communal living; and the underground villages, which were established to provide protection from the heat of this dry, arid land.
Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia. Star Wars fans will recognise the building as the slave quarters in the film The Phantom Menace.

The photo of a plain ksar above will give you an idea of their format. Essentially storage areas for grain, animal fodder, and other foodstuffs, these ‘buildings’ faced into a central courtyard – their external walls presenting a barrier that could be defended from within.

Ksar Oulad Soltane, near Tataouine, is an excellent example of this type of semi-permanent meeting place. The tribes could store their needs at places such as this and continue their nomadic life as the seasons dictated.

Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia

There is a small village just on the outskirts of Ksar Ouled Soltaine, but it’s quite basic. One of the “rooms” in the first courtyard of the ksar has been turned into a “refreshments” shop selling drinks. We were the only tourists there at the time of our visit. 

Also nearby are the villages of Chenini and Douirat, almost deserted now as the necessity for protective hilltop living has given way to the easier and more convenient life (without a climb) on the plains. 

Some of the houses in these villages are hewn into the rock itself providing additional shelter against the elements.

A ‘courtyard’ of storage houses usually protected the entrances to these ‘caves’.

These villages look out over plains and grazing areas that have changed little over the centuries, and some of the people still work the land as their forefathers did.

Ksar Ouled Soltaine,Tunisia
The village of Douirat, now relocated to the bottom of the hill.
Chenini, Tunisia
The abandoned village of Chenini, Tunisia. You may be lucky enough to find a local who will give you a guided tour and show you the ancient olive press.
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