Dear Reader,

This is Chenini. A true gem of the Tunisian Sahara desert, one of the remaining Berber villages in Tunisia built on a hill top between two ridges, and the “satellite” used in the Star Wars Movies, Chenini is a mirage that appears out of nowhere really…

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Hidden behind a desert hill, Chenini is probably the oldest Berber town in Tunisia, located 18 km from Tataouine. From far away it looks like a little Nativity Scene replica made of stone colour dominated by a white little mosque that stands up among the sandy coloured rocks.

At first sight it looks completely abandoned, but the truth is that Chenini is inhabited by about 600 people, mostly farmers and artisans who will impress you with their crafts and painting. And maybe why not, they might take you around for a little tour and even let you step on the little roofs.

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I took a walk along the little streets of Chenini where I was be able to admire the caves and women working on their looms.

After visiting the town, you will notice that not far away from it there is another little mosque known as The Mosque of the Seven Sleepers. A legend says that 7 Christians lay down in here after living for more than 400 years each and reached an enormous hight becoming true giants. Here they take rest after converting to Islam.



7 Sleepy Giants

Dear Reader,

a Berber legend goes like this:

Seven men were allegedly buried in the surroundings of the masjid some uncommonly large tombs (about 4 meters long) are visible. It is a popular belief that during their long sleep they did not stop growing, so when they woke up they had become giants.

And here are they buried, underneath this beautiful masjid of Chenini.




Stanito victim of a Superior Mirage

Dear Reader,

Have you ever been witness of a mirage? Well, I have. In the Tunisian desert driving towards Matmata.

Tunisian Mirage Stanito

Dictionary defines Mirage as following: an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions, especially the appearance of a sheet of water in a desert or on a hot road caused by the refraction of light from the sky by heated air.
Yes, Dear Reader, what I saw was clearly a sheet of water but also what seemed to be a UFO above the horizon. In fact Dear Reader, I was being victim (or witness) of something called Superior Mirage!
Definition: Superior mirages occur from above the horizon because there is a cooler level of air that satays lower than warmer air. This might make you see a mass of land or floating boat in midair. In most extreme cases it can distort images what it should be there (a house, a building, a tree, or whatever). They commonly occur on summer days, when an asphalt road that has been literally baking in the sun heats the air right above it and it creates a sharp shift in air density levels near the ground. As light passes between the different levels, it bends, creating mirages… Ergo the big UFO I just saw 🙂

Austere La Ghriba Synagogue

Dear Reader,

This is the most anonymous synagogue I have ever seen. La Ghriba synagogue, in Djerba, Tunisia.

Synagogue la ghriba sign Even in super touristic spots of Tunisia you can find rare jewels. The La Ghriba or El Ghriba synagogue is the oldest still-standing synagogue in Africa. A rare piece of jewel placed in Erriadh (previously known as Hara Seghira), right in the middle of the map, it is home to one of the largest Jewish communities that have lived there since Roman times; this synagogue is built on the site of a Jewish temple almost 1,900 years ago and it is the destination of the annual pilgrimage of many Jews in occurrence of the Lag BaOmer holiday. The annual pilgrimage of many Tunisian Jews for the holiday of Lag BaOmer occurred on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, meaning May 17, 2014. Other than this occasion, the synagogue looks completely deserted. Synagogue la ghriba 4 Synagogue la ghriba 2 Synagogue la ghriba Stanito Synagogue la ghriba

Several myths and legends shroud the house of worship, including the claim that it is one of the world’s oldest synagogues, dating back to 586 B.C.E. Physical evidence of this is said to exist in the form of a stone from the original Temple in Jerusalem which is either embedded in the foundation, planted in one of the synagogue’s arches, or lying under the Ark where the Torah scrolls are held. It changes depending on who tells you the story…

Like most of the structures I have seen in Djerba, the exterior has bright white walls punctuated by blue shutters and doors that match the Mediterranean sky. In the inside the sanctuary features Tunisian influences – its color palette includes aquatic blues and gold.

Inside Synagogue La Ghriba  4 Inside Synagogue La Ghriba 3 Inside Synagogue La Ghriba 2 Inside Synagogue La Ghriba 1

The Ghriba name may come from the Arabic word Ghriba, which means stranger according to the legend where a woman who perished in a fire that left her body miraculously intact. Because of that, it is believed that this synagogue brings protection for women, who come to pray for miracles of healing and fertility, lighting candles and writing wishes on the surfaces of eggshells.

Here in Tunisia the coexistence of the Jewish and Muslim communities is a rare sign of peace and tolerance in an Arab country, where the Jewish counts about 5,000 Jews, 1,000 only residing in Djerba.

The government officials are dedicated to preserving that reputation dearly, especially after 2002 when a terrorist attack outside El Ghriba, claimed by Al Qaeda, killed 21 people.

Move around Tunisia

Dear Reader,

Time to answer questions, this time they came from my friend Sabrina.
Moving around Tunisia is a delight, in many senses. You can drive in Italy, Delhi, or smaller towns, but  Tunisia is just pleasant and fun. With 8 airports, of which 5 handle international flights, Tunisia has 19,232 km of roads. Given this information, I vividly suggest that you hire a car if what you look for is an independent travel experience. You’ll be able to reach almost every corner in complete freedom.

Continue reading “Move around Tunisia”

Tunisia: why you should go and quick!

Dear Reader,

Just the name of Tunisia alone evokes romantic images of desert moons, Mediterranean houses on top of hills and the enchanting sand dunes of the Sahara. If you search on Travel + Leisure or any travel website, I’m sure you’ll find good reasons to go to Tunisia. But if you’re looking for reasons that go a little bit beyond fancy international resorts like Yasmine Hammamet, or “desolated” beaches with rows of people running on four-wheeled motorbikes, than please listen to Stanito 🙂 Continue reading “Tunisia: why you should go and quick!”