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Review: Matmata

City/Town/Region/Island

Tunisia

Troglodyte houses and don't forget Star Wars....

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2344 reviews

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  • Apr 2012
  • Husband

51 people found this review helpful

We did a detour to Matmata on the way to Ksar Ghilane as this was the only chance we would have to get there during our trip.



?It is reached by a superb climb through the mountains to Tamezret, having left the desert behind. These have deeply eroded sides with patches of green cultivation in valley bottoms where there is water. The limestone hills are virtually devoid of vegetation in places.



Tamezret is Berber settlement on top of the hill, with small stone buildings with barrel roofs clustered round the Mosque. As young people leave the village there are many deserted old buildings. We could see the remains of an old troglodyte house in the cliff along the road.



The road continues to climb up through the mountains to Matmata. As it approaches Matmata there are more troglodyte houses on the side of road, many with wall across in front of courtyard. We saw many parked cars and tourists swarming about taking photographs.



Our driver ignored these and took us to a house at the bottom of a steep rough track which is still lived in. The road is too bad for coaches and missed by the tourists. A woman was sitting embroidering a sheet in the street outside house with a small child. Rooms for the animals are carved into cliff face. Facing us was a wooden gateway with a blue painted eye, hands and fish above for protection. We climbed over the high door sill and went along a long corridor with rooms off which led into a big courtyard with more rooms around it. A young girl came out of the kitchen and invited us to look in all the rooms and take pictures.



The bedroom had a large bed for adults and smaller beds on the floor for the children. The living area had long low cushions round the walls with a low table. There was a storage room with a hand plough, harrow and other equipment. There was another storage area for food in a first floor room reached by wooden ladder. Another room had a loom. There was a small bread making kitchen with large metal pans used to make Berber bread over an open fire. Some bread was brought out for us with a bowl of olive oil and a kettle of mint tea. This is the traditional Berber Breakfast.



We looked into the modern kitchen with 2 small gas rings for cooking and storage area at back. There was no elecricity and no fridge. Water is brought to the house in large cans. It was a well worth while visit. We had read that many of the troglodyte house in Matmata itself are now tourist attractions and you are encouraged to go in and have a look and then a donation is demanded.



We dropped down into Matmata and although we had said NO STAR WAR SITES, we were taken into Hotel Sidi Driss which was used as a location for one of the movies. Huge signs inside pointing to the Star Wars set and lead down a passageway past dubious toilets and a communal washing area. It took us to a courtyard with rooms off and metal doors. There was a ‘Control Panel’ on one wall and various big pipes. It looked and felt tacky. Tourist tat outside with baby camel didn’t improve our impressions. It was a waste of time.



It was more than made up for by the superb drive along a very narrow and rough dirt track back to the main road at Bir Soltane and then KSar Ghilane. The track climbed up through eroded mountains with patches of green in the valley bottoms. There were lots of wild flowers including yellow daisies, Alysum, tiny blue iris, multiheaded squills pressed against the ground, blue borage, pink daisies…..



I hesitated about a star grading for this review. The troglodyte house we visited definitely deserves 10*. Tourist Matmata I would grade 5* but Hotel Sidi Driss is struggling to get 1* Averaging this out gives 5*.



It is also difficult to fill in the categories as there is the same problem. I'll leave you to make up your own mind…

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