After a good night sleep, we were on our way again: to another part of Tunisia which we're told would be an oasis high up in the mountains: Chebika in the Tozeur Governorate at the Western side of Tunisia.at the foot of the mountains of the Djebel el Negueb. Many scenes in "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" and the movie "The English Patient" were shot in that region.
A last look at our hotel
In Arab, this place is called Qasr el-Shams or "Castle of the Sun" because it was built on a height constantly exposed to the sun. In was once a Roman outpost, named Ad Speculum and before 1969, it was a mountain refuge of the Berber people. But in that year, there were some torrential rains which triggered a mud slip which effectively destroyed the entire mountain village up there. You can still see the rows of terraced rocks protected by wire meshes at the side of the mountain to prevent further landslide. There are just a hundred or more people living in the buildings below that former town now, living on tourism, selling desert roses, postcards, semi-precious stones, souvenirs and mementos.
There was a café up there where we could take our second cup of tea or coffee or a cold drink for the morning. We certainly need one after all those bumps on the road in our jeeps.
Below us are cloves of palm trees
A view of the town of Chebika below
We had to climb many steps to take this photo
These are some of the steps we climbed
In the valley to the left of the photo and of the town below, we see a forest of palm trees
The roofs of the buildings are all gone now
Through the ruined walls, we get a view of the surrounding hills
Nothing but shadows of their former glory
One of the better preserved former residences of the Berber tribesmen who used to live here.
More ruined buildings.
Children must have had a lot of fun playing in this narrow alley in the fresh mountain air, all silent now but for the sound of our shoes brushing against the grit beneath our feet
When the people are gone, the grasses wouldn't lose time
Nothing left except the wooden threshold of the former door over the mud-brick walls
Don't they look like the primitive mud huts that harbour Mexican bandits that we often see in Hollywood cowboy movies of the 1960s
including with their palm thatch sheds?
A lone prayer hut facing Mecca for praying to Allah, standing proudly over the valley below
A monument to the mountain goat, the only animal able to survive under such harsh conditions
The end to our third flight of steps
Nothing except steep gorges and dry mountain sides on which little could grow.
The sides of the mountain rises almost straight up
There are rifts in the mountain side
The incline is steep, almost 45%
We got to go down that road before we could access the oasis hidden between the sides of the mountain
Finally, we reached it. Just a tiny spring pool
Another view of the pool
A little further on, the water from the pool trickles down a narrow gorge
Just a tiny stream into another pool
It goes straight down
Around the pool palm trees grow
And they grow all the way down that small mountain stream.
We're finally down again. An odd looking rusted bucket I found outside the café.
local floral decoration for sale
An old Berber man with a yellow turban around his head relaxing on a matching plastic chair.
From Chebika, our jeep took us to our second mountain oasis,Tamerza, another abandoned old town and one of the largest mountain oases in Tunisia. It was called Ad Turres by the Romans. Like Chebika, this town was abandoned after a 22-day flood in 1969. It is located close to the border with Algeria, north of the salt lakes and just 6 km from Mides, our next destination.
The water running down from the side of the mountain
The only things which grow there seem the moss on the edge of the waterfall. It's desert country.
This is the second water fall closer to where we stopped our jeep. We can see clearly the layers and layers of sedimentary rocks deposited there at different geological ages.
The only people now from the former Berber village who refuse to abandon their former home survive on selling various kinds of souvenirs
There were shops on both sides of the valley
Camels, water-filtered smoking pipe, Berber embroidery, perfume, baskets, trinkets etc
The colors of the scarves seem to blend quite well with those of the environment
Rugs and carpets
Reed baskets. Like the way they placed them against the color drawings on the wall.
After Tamerza, we were driven to Mides, another 6 km away, a third mountain oasis in Tunisia close to the border of Algeria. It's like a mini-version of the Grand Canyon at the Yellow Stone Park in America and another village in the same region abandoned for reasons similar to the two previous ones we saw earlier that morning. The photo shows the former fort erected on top of the promontory. However, we did not have time to take a look at what's in there.
Another view of the old fort showing its general layout
The valley below seems quite dry
But on top the rock outcrop right in the middle of the valley, some plants are refusing to stop growing.
The ravine plunges straight down more than a 100 feet
The flatter ledges have already been colonized by a carpet of plants. Where would they not grow? I wonder if plants and insects would be the only survivors after a nuclear holocaust.
See how tiny the old fort perched atop those 4 round platforms look ?
I wonder how the rocks got their present shape. At one time, there must have been lots of water here. Where had it gone and why?
Crystals for sale on the roadside. That appears to be one of the few ways those still living there depend for their livelihood.
colorful scarves for sale, as in Tamerza
Time to drive back for lunch. We're quite late.
To be cont'd