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Published: March 23rd 2010
From Tozeur we had intended to make our way up the Western edge of Tunisia. Our experiences of taking louages and other forms of public transport in remote areas put us off somewhat. Instead we abandoned those plans and headed back over the Chott El Jerid salt lake to the town of Kebili.
We stayed in the Hotel Kitam on the Northern edge of town. We were the only guests and it was rather more expensive than we had hoped for. At 50 dinars (£22) for a double room we expected something really nice but as the only guests it seemed we were just an inconvenience to the tranquil life of the owners. They made Basil Fawlty look like a guest relations specialist and breakfast the following morning saw a pot of coffee on the table which had stood there getting cold for who knows how long, accompanied by a strawberry flavoured biscuit and a yoghurt. We would have complained but there was nobody around!
The reason for coming to Kebili was to see the old village of the same name. With no gas or electricity the old village was abandoned in 1980 and everyone relocated to the modern
town. It’s a shame because the village is in an idyllic setting deep in the heart of the palmerie. Nowadays all that remains are the crumbling shells of the village houses, the mosque, four marabout
shrines and the museum in a restored house.
We took a taxi out to the village mainly because we didn’t know exactly how to get there. After being dropped off outside the museum we went for a wander through the deserted streets and explored some of the crumbling old houses. It was quite eerie really, especially when you get to El Bortal
, the tiny square which was the centre of the Saharan slave trade. Whilst nowhere near as extensive as the Atlantic slave trade, it was nevertheless equally horrific. You could almost feel the history as you stood in the square, even though there was nothing to see.
We had a quick tour around the museum, shown round by an old man whose enthusiasm wasn’t exactly oozing out. He spoke French quite slowly to us so we more or less understood what he was telling us but in the main the exhibits were artefacts like kitchen equipment so not overly exciting. Afterwards he
made us coffee and we left a contribution towards the upkeep of the museum.
Finally we walked back into town. On the way we heard some rhythmic drums and chanting from one of the marabouts. We went to have a look and think we stumbled across some sort of wedding celebration. They were even more enthusiastic with their music and song when they saw they had an audience! It was quite haunting in a deserted village. Our walk then took us through acres of palm trees until we finally made it back to town. With no real restaurants to visit (the one in our hotel was closed as there were no guests) we stocked up on salad from a supermarket and even found a bottle of wine. This went well with a freshly roasted chicken which we later sat in our room and ate.
The following morning we ate our disappointing breakfast and left without seeing a soul. Luckily we didn’t have to wait for a taxi as plenty of them hang around outside the nearby hospital. Neither did we have to wait long for a louage to Gabes as one was waiting conveniently with two spare seats.
At Gabes we arrived in time for the train to Sousse so everything went smoothly.
Back in Sousse we’ve had some chill out time in the Hammam-Sousse Sindbad Hotel where we’ve made the most of the good weather. Whilst the swimming pool is too cold to use, it’s nice to sit alongside and soak up the spring sunshine. Sadly the time has come to say farewell to our friends here so we’ve been doing quite a bit of that too. Our Tunisian adventure isn’t over yet though, as we have a week touring the North of the country in a hire car to come. Watch this space!
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