“The committee of UNESCO member states meeting in Riyadh has just approved the inclusion of the heritage of the island of Djerba on the world heritage list,” rejoiced Eric Falt, regional director of UNESCO at Maghreb.
Djerba, which covers 514 km2, is the largest island in North Africa. Its landscape is a combination of desert areas bordering the sea and fields cultivated with palm and olive trees.
Considered the mythological island where in Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses and his navigators encounter the Lotophages (lotus eaters), Djerba also served as the backdrop for certain scenes on the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars saga.
The Tunisian Ministry of Cultural Affairs welcomed Djerba’s “definitive acceptance”, saying it “does justice to the joint efforts” of the authorities and civil society.
The island, renowned for its religious mix, boasts churches, synagogues including the Ghriba – the oldest in Africa – and fortified Ibadite mosques (a separate branch of Islam), some of which are underground.
Djerba is also home to typical markets (souks) and a pretty medina (old Arab town) at Houm Soukt.