The Unforgettable Djerba Experience: The Tunisian Island of Djerba, Tucked in the Heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Is an Oasis of Peace and Respite for the Restless and the Bold. Josephine Akarue Reports

Article excerpt

In the beginning was an island: pure and unexplored. Tall, graceful palm trees sway in rhythmic motion to the soft rustle of sea breeze, whilst the sweet fragrance of olives and jasmine, mingled with the aroma of fish, waft through the warm, humid air. Now and again, the gentle waves cascade over the white, sandy shores, leaving behind small treasures of shells and seaweed. Here, in the idyllic embrace of sun and sea, sprang a beautiful island, nestled in the curves of the Tunisian East Coast. Welcome to the stunning Island of Djerba.

In every sense, this island offers a sweet sense of adventure for the bold and the restless. Indeed, ancient history recalls that Ulysses, the great hero of the Odyssey fame, visited this seductive Island, home to wild camels, horses, crocodiles, flamingoes as well as the honey sweet fruit, lotos. While the lotos provided a sweet relief to parched throats, Ulysses and his companions found the island very enthralling.

Over its one thousand years of existence, this island has gradually shed its innocence but maintained its pure beauty. Today, it has metamorphosed into a place rich in tradition and urban sophistication. Obviously, time and space have replaced its innocence with a matured elegance.

From the sandy white beaches overlooking the Mediterranean, to the fringes of the sand dunes, deep in the heart of the island, each patch of Djerba offers an opportunity of adventure and exploration. In the words of a tourist, this island with its beauty and tradition, is an "ode to laid-back living". Simply put, it is an idyllic escape from the noise and stress of urban life.

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Ironically, it is not just the unhurried pace and the soft sea breeze that makes it so captivating. One reason why it has remained so irresistible and endearing is the vast contrasts and peculiar architecture it has. Its dome-shaped roofs and cube-like structures are deep reflections of its strong Arabic influence. Of course, its international airport and well-laid out boulevards make it easily accessible by air or land.

As you step out of the plane at the Djerba Zarzis international airport, the warm air embraces you. In summer, you are likely to encounter numerous tourists and holiday-makers, just as eager as you are to explore this island. But in winter, the human traffic thins out and you find yourself completing immigration formalities in record time. Now, you are set to begin one holiday you are not likely to forget in a hurry.

Your guide quickly tells you that you have a myriad of choice hotels to pick from. If you seek authenticity with a blend of the traditional and modern, you are likely to fall for the Hotel de Charme 'Dar Dhiafa' in Djerba.

Just as the name implies, its elegance and architecture provide a charming welcome to the travel-weary guest, looking for something unique. Here again, there is the heavy influence of the Arab-Andalusian palaces from which many of the island's settlers migrated. This luxury, interlaced with originality revealed in its rocky fences and dome-shaped chalets, are reflections of its strong ties with its roots.

Yet, at dawn, these pale into insignificance. The strong aroma of freshly brewed tea or coffee and the chirping of early morning birds heighten your excitement. Outside, the bouquet of flowers and their rich fragrance awaken your anticipation of the adventure that lies ahead.

You could choose to start your day just after breakfast so you have sufficient time to explore all the interesting sights. Some, such as the Fort El Kebir and Fort El Kastil, are gifts from the deep past and silent witnesses of Djerba's turbulent history. But as you make your way along the hallway and cobbled corridors, what strikes you most is the sheer determination and resilience that was nailed into every stone.

The Sultan of Tunis, Ghazi Mustapha originally constructed the Fort El Kebir, also known as the Borj Ghazi Mustapha, around the 15th century. …