The Island of Djerba

 

Djerba, Tunisia

A Desert Island where wellness and nature walk hand in hand
Not many Brits would have heard of Djerba prior to Tunisair’s inaugural flight from London Gatwick to Djerba on Thursday 27th May 2010. Lyssiemay Annoh was aboard the one-class maiden flight and shares her experience here with us.

Hot stone treatment at the Park Inn Ulysse Thalasso, Djerba
My first discovery - "the biggest secret of the Island of Djerba, the gateway to the Sahara, is its divine Thalassotherapy"

A three-hour Tunisair flight from London Gatwick to Saharan Djerba in the Gulf of Gabes will land you onto this very unique island destination. Djerba, the largest island in North Africa is already very popular with French, German, Italian and Czech tourists. The island’s uniqueness prompted French philosopher, novelist, and essayist, Simone de Beauvoir, the lifelong companion of Jean-Paul Sartre to describe it as “one of the silent places in the world with an air so mild that it prevents you from dying.” I’ll second that, but for me, it is not simply the silence of the air that prevents you from dying on this desert island. I made my first discovery - the biggest secret of the Island of Djerba, gateway to the Sahara, is its divine Thalassotherapy


The island offers miles of sandy beach opportunities and is twinned to Zarzis by the Roman causeway where an array of luxury hotels have taken advantage of its beautiful long sandy beaches to offer deluxe wellness hospitality to visitors. Almost every five star resort on the island offers some sort of comprehensive thalasso spa product
The beautiful sandy beaches of at the 5* Yadis Hotel, Djerba. Rooms start from 130 dinars per person per night on bed and breakfast basis. www.yadis.com

The main town of Djerba is Houmt Souk which unsurprisingly, also harbours the fishing port and its fishing activities. The authorities are so keen to receive visitors that they have especially created a tourist zone in Houmt Souk so that tourists feel special on arrival. Houmt Souk is where the major trading takes place; it is also the place to find mosques and churches.

Tunisia in brief:
The 10 million population country bordering Algeria, Lybia and the Mediterranean Sea speak Arabic officially but you can move about freely if you speak French. English is about the least language spoken on the island of Djerba but it is likely that this will change now that Tunisair operates direct flights from London Gatwick to Djerba.
- The country’s capital is Tunis
- Climate is Mediterranean
- Currency is dinar but credit cards are widely accepted and there are cash dispensing machines all over.
- EU citizens do not require visa and no vaccinations are required.

 

Eitquette and customs
Tunisians are warm, friendly and very welcoming to visitors but please ask people nicely first if you wish to photograph them. In Djerba, there did not appear to be any clothing restrictions for visitors but obviously, it advisable to dress appropriately outside tourist spots.

Gastronomy
Experienced craftsman in the village of Guellela in Djerba making a pot out of clay
An array of beautifully decorated colourful pottery and plates at Houmt Souk, Djerba
Pottery plays a big role in the lives of the people of Djerba and the quarries of Guellala have been the main source of clay for the craftsmen. Many of them use clay to make the beautiful jars, plates and pots which are sold all over the markets, souks and quarries. All the souks (markets) display an array of colourful pottery and decorated plates for sale.
Unless your idea of a holiday is limited to soaking up some sun in a deckchair, beach or pool, then there is a lot to see and do in Djerba
Tunisian Bedouin resting in the desert near Pansea Ksar Ghilane
A trip to the Berber villages (indigenous population of Djerba and the South East Region of Tunisia) should definitely be on the cards. Matmata, for example is famous for its Troglodyte underground houses. These houses have central courtyard and bedrooms carved out of soft rock. In fact the desert choices are numerous; there is also Toujane, Tamezeret, Gabes where you can visit the palm oasis in a horse drawn carriage, the shrine of Sidi Boulbaba and the Museum of Popular Arts and Crafts, the Vieux Menzel quarter.
Other place of interest include Gightis, a roman archaeological site, Mareth – a former military site (the Mareth Line) and home to the Second World War Museum.
Traditional hotel dwellings in Matmata and one of the filming sites of Star Wars
If mountains, desert plateaux and impressive landscapes are your cup of tea, then do not hasten to include Tataouine and the mesmerising architecture of Ksour (desert castles) and their superimposed cells called the ghorfas. Pass through the village of Chenini and Douiret to admire this spectacular mountain market town whose houses are carved into the mountainside providing a safe refuge for the Berbers should invaders attack. The inhabitants of Chenini still speak the Berber dialect passed on from generations.

Where to eat in Chenini
Relais Chenini whips up an excellent lunch – if you get the chance of dropping by do not miss the couscous on the menu. Relais Yadis Chenini comes highly recommended.

How to travel through the Djerbian Desert

Your best bet is to pre-arrange this with a tour operator or your hotel. Travelling through Djerba and Zarzis in a good four-wheel drive will take you through Matmata, a desert village with dwellings dug out of pits, Toujane famous for its Ghorfas, Ksar Haddada, Médenine, Tataouine, Chenini and Ksar Ghilane, an oasis in the middle of the desert because of this thermal spring.

Guests can also enjoy an overnight desert transfer to the linen tents in Ksar Ghilene Pansea. Overnights start from 95 dinars per person per night on bed and breakfast basis. An oasis with thermal springs and a swimming pool in the desert. This is where guests are entertained by traditional Bedouin dancers around a big camp fire while enjoying classic Berber dinners together with quad biking, camel and horse riding in the desert.

Tel: +216 7562 1870

Berber musicians entertaining guests at the Pansea Ksar Ghilane (Desert camp)

If you want to stick to western sports, or take the trophy of being the beach bum of the year, Djerba and Zarsis are ideal locations for family beach holidays. The climate is mild, and most of the hotels have programmes for water sports, golf, strolling and exploring the island. The island does not lack in quad biking activities and thrives on crafts and artefacts. The Souks are flooded with rugs, pottery, traditional gold, Tunics.

Other places to visit include:
Midoun: For a weekly street market, souks and ancient olive groves
Mahboudine: Home to the Turkish-style mosque with multiple cupolas, gardens and orchards;
Erriadh and Essouani: with its historic villages, houses and synagogues for Djerban jews;
El May: Fortified mosques (remains of machicolations and embrasures)
Guellala: For pottery workshops and markets
Ajim: For the Port, market,

Museums and Sites
There are quite a few on the island but include Djerba Explore in your visit. The multipurpose which is not far from the Midoun tourist district has a theme park with a museum, recreational activities, shops and a crocodile farm.
Nightlife
Most of the hotels provide interesting entertainment for nightlife but there are also clubs and casinos for those who like to live on the wild side.
Conferences, events and incentives
Most of the resorts have facilities and large floor spaces to host conferences and events and in Djerba, it is not unusual to host events in some of the large open spaces available for such purposes.

Where to stay

You can be forgiven and understood if you chose to visit Djerba simply to enjoy its Spas. With almost every resort on the island boasting to be the one offering the best thalasso spa facilities, well-being fanatics are spoilt for choice. Djerbian hoteliers see space as a necessary luxury and thalassotherapy as something that no visitor to the island should be deprived of. The therapeutic use of seawater and marine products is regulated by strict law in Tunisia so you can be assured to be in safe hands. The treatments vary but judging from the luxury of the some of the centres we saw, the vast spaces in which they operate, you can expect some VIP treatment at the hands of their caring staff. In addition the extensive wellness and fitness facilities, most of the hotels have hairdressing and beauty salons.
WiFi is however available but not free in any of the hotels.

Yadis Djerba Golf, Thalasso & Spa Hotel

Talk about wanting everything in a sun-sea destination in one place. The Yadis Djerba Golf Thalasso & Spa hotel is ideally located between a Golf course and the sea. The 330 room hotel stretches of 14 hectares of oasis and offers everything you will seek in resort destination. The hotel is fully equipped with everything from Conference and banqueting facilities to bars, restaurants, golf, many leisure activities and a children’s club.
The spacious corridors of Yadis Djerba, Golf, Thalasso & Spa Hotel

The most valuable asset of the hotel apart from its ample space is the Thalasso & Spa which is right in the centre of the hotel, next to the lobby. The Spa has the capacity to serve 150 persons per day and this is where it all happens with all sorts of cures, from beauty, to stress relief, slimness to hydrotherapy massage read more
Rooms start from 130 dinars per person per night on bed and breakfast basis. Location: 20km from Houmt Souk, a 25 minute drive from Djerba Zarzis airport

Email:yadis.thalasso@planet .tn
Hotel Email:info-yadisdjerba@yadis.com
Tel; +216 75 747 410/ Tel: +216 75 745 115

The Hasdrubal Prestige Thalasso & Spa Hotel

The all suite luxurious Hasdrubal Prestige Thalasso & Spa Hotel in Djerba, Tunisia

This all suite affordable luxury hotel lives to its name with spacious prestigious surroundings. It is well spread over a long sandy beach and is home to one of the best chefs on the island. The spa menu is exhaustive with almost every type of massage and treatment including a slimming massage which involves a body wrap of some sort. As if the treatments and massages are not enough, the hotel also offers hamman rituals including a Berber ritual.

Tel: (216)75 759 259
Email:prestige@hasdrubal-thalassa.com

The twin five star resort following a rebranding by the Rezidor group Athenee Thalasso at the Radisson Blu and Park Inn Ulysse Resort & Thalasso.

The 242 standard bedroom and 17 suite hotel, Park Inn Ulysse Resort & Thalasso is a luxurious hotel rejoicing in the rebranding by the Rezidor Group. The suites comprise of 2 Présidential suites(100 m²), 7 Ambassador suites (48 à 54 m²) and 8 junior suites (40 à 45 m²). and three minutes away from the main Casino. It is beautifully equipped with a long sandy beach, three restaurants, a gigantic thalasso spa, with direct access to many indoor and outdoor sporting activities.

The 242 standard bedroom and 17 suite Pak Inn Ulysse Resort & Thalasso hotel in Djerba, Tunisia

Location: 20-minutes drive from airport, 10 minutes from the town centre and 3 minutes from the Grand Casino.

The Park Inn Ulysse Resort & Thalasso
B.P.239 - 4128 Djerba - TUNISIE
Tel: +216 75.75.87.77 - Fax : +216 75.75.78.50
E-mail:info.djerba@rezidorparkinn.com
http://www.rezidorparkinn.com

Radisson Blu Resort & Thalasso, Djerba with its 296 freshly renovated rooms including 14 junior suites and 6 Ambassador suites.

Radisson Blu Resort & Thalasso, Djerba has 296 freshly renovated room including 14 junior suites and 6 Ambassador suites. Guests can choose between smoking and non-smoking rooms or 38 adjoining rooms. It has 4 restaurants and 5 bars together with a 3000m2 Thalasso spa with direct access from the hotel. The hotel which leads onto a long sandy beach is Wi-Fi enabled. The hotel also has 7 meeting rooms and caters for up to 350 delegates.

Tel.: +216 75 75 76 00, Fax: +216 75 75 76 01
Email: info.djerba@radissonblu.com

How to travel on the island
The only way around the Island of Djerba is by renting a car or hiring a taxi. They also operate a share taxi system called “louage” whereby up to five passengers can share a taxi.

How to get there
Tunisair operate two flights per week from London Gatwick to Djerba, via Monastir. Prices start from £220. For reservations call 020 7734 7644 or go to www.tunisair.com.
For all your travel needs and for information on what's happening in Tunisia go to www.cometotunisia.co.uk

 

 

Executive Traveller 2003