Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tunisia - Medenine Market

Medenine market.

Sent by Nesrine from Gabès in Tunisia.

"Medenine is an important town in southeast Tunisia, close to Metameur and south of the port of Gabes, en route to the border with Libya. The town is the regional capital of the Medenine province and was once one of the many stops on the North African caravan route.

The traditional loaf-shaped mud cells called ghurfas were traditionally used to store grain and are the town’s main claim to fame. Although the foundations are centuries old they have been continually maintained and are now used as interesting souvenir and carpet shops. Unfortunately large areas of the ghurfa quarters were demolished in the 1920s to make way for the more modern town. Those that are left are now preserved. They contrast with the more modern architecture to provide an interesting and charming place to visit.

The ghurfa buildings were commonly used by nomads of the Berber Touazine and Khezour tribes to provide storage and a semi-permanent base where families could meet up, goods could be sold and conflicts resolved. They were built side by side and up to six storeys high, resembling a honeycomb.

From the 17th century onwards Medenine was an important market and trading centre, part of the Ouerghamma federation. At its peak the town had 8,000 small mud-built ghurfas and traders arrived from Algeria, Libya and further afield to do business.

The more modern town is friendly and lively, particularly in the evenings. Local things to do in the area include visiting the Musée de Guellala which is a museum and exhibition of the Medenine area. Medenine also makes a good base for exploring the small hill villages in the area. Large trees now provide shade over the colourful fruit and vegetable market, another of Medenine’s popular tourist attractions on Mondays and Thursdays.

Visitors will be interested to know that part of the film “Star Wars” was filmed in Medenine in the 1970s." (read more)

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