3 minutes reading time Tunisia
Tataouine is known for being the largest state in Tunisia, and the place where traditions and culture remain preserved at all costs. Perhaps the most well-known places are Chenini and Douiret: two villages located on a hilltop in Tataouine. Approximately 20km from the city, the ancient Amazigh villages Chenini and Douiret are as lofty as ever. They are mainly known for their mesmerizing handicrafts, beautiful architecture, as well as cultured people with hospitality and good manners that will make you feel at home.
Imazighen or the Berber people were the very first who inhabited the area, established it. Back in the days when protection from the enemy was utterly needed the most, both villages’ castles were built to trace the attackers and remain hidden and safe. It is no coincidence that the houses are still as firm as ever. The architectural design was genuinely followed.
When you visit Chenini and Douiret, the very first question to come up to mind is ‘how did the villagers settle and adapt in an arid and rugged region? Also, ‘why did they choose to stay in the mountain peaks? The answer lies in ‘Al-Jusoor’, an innovative system to retain scarce rainwater. These small dams of dirt and stones trap surface runoff and make terraced farming possible to meet the needs of the village. As for the cave houses, they provide a temperate atmosphere in every season. Despite their rural lifestyle, the villagers were able to create crafts popular with visitors, such as weaving carpets and shawls in bright colors and delicate decorations.
The beauty of the villages lies in the solid antiquity of its ruins, as well as the locals’ hospitality. No matter where you come from, you would still feel at home, living a simple and humble life free from all sorts of worries. A typical day in the antique houses of Douiret consists of making homemade bread, long talks with old people around the village drinking mint tea, and most definitely watching the mesmerizing sunset from the top of the mountains. Learning the language is considered a huge bonus as Tamazight is one of the most ancient and rarest languages in Africa, and unfortunately, not everyone is capable of fully speaking it, so you would consider yourself very lucky if you learn a few words and sentences.
By the way, even clothes are neatly homemade such as Bernous and Taqchabit which are mostly worn in wintertime for comfort and coziness.
Food in these villages is pretty simple. Everything is cooked from local ingredients and spices such semolina pancakes known as “Kesra”, dipped in virgin olive oil derived from the village olive trees, figs, or pomegranates collected from Al-Jusoor, and honey-scented with rosemary and thyme. Also, delicious lamb Couscous is the main dish of the region.
Two things: good food and good vibes. Food in those small traditional houses is usually cooked on fire, or in traditional ovens made of pottery. Possibly the greatest and tastiest bread you will ever eat. Might as well get the recipe!
As for the climate, you will not have to worry about the heat as, surprisingly, houses in Douiret are built to be cool during summertime and warm during wintertime. Water is usually cold as it is kept in large pottery containers known as ‘Khabi’ya’.
Even though life is pretty simple and humble in Chenini Douiret but it is so worth the visit. The locals would love to host you. All you can do in return is appreciate their lifestyle and support their small businesses.
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5 August 2021 4 min. Nada Zorgui
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