Djerba is one of the most famous and arguably most beautiful of Tunisia's islands, known for its stunning beaches and dramatic sunsets! It is connected to the mainland by a road, originally built by the Romans at a point where the water was just 1 metre deep, and also by a ferry.
Some of its original inhabitants are said to have been local Berbers, (Djerba is one of the few places in Tunisia where a Berber language is still spoken,) black slaves and Jews who originally fled Jerusalem around 100 BC! A family of Jewish Priests were even said to have transported one of the temple gates to Djerba, believed enclosed in El Ghriba, one of Djerba's many synagogues and also the oldest at over 2000 years old!
This major tourist resort originally had the names of Lotophagi Island, Isle of Philadelphia and finally Meninx Island Girba, which derives its current name Djerba! A nickname for Djerba is also the Isle of forgetfulness, as it supposedly had a spell that trapped visitors in ancient times!
According to Greek mythology, Djerba was the home of the seductive lotus eaters. In Homer's Odyssey, during a voyage through the Mediterranean, Ulysses almost lost his men when the beautiful maidens of the island fed them the lotus flower. The men, stranded on Djerba, were so pleasantly intoxicated by the lotus, that Ulysses found it almost impossible to make them return to their ships!
Some of the many different nations that have occupied Djerba throughout its history are as follows :-
- Middle Ages : The Kharejite sect, known as the Ibadites
- 1135 - 1158 and 1284 - 1333 : The Norman Kingdom of Sicilly
- 1521 - 1524 and 1551 - 1560 : Spain
- 16th century : A temporary base for the Turkish corsair and admiral Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha
- 1560 - 1881 : The Ottomans
- 1881 - 1956 : France
Between 1995 and 2000, Djerba was revealed to have over 400 archaeological sites, including many Punic and Roman villas!
Ancient mosques and synagogues, lively markets, Roman ruins, charming villages famous for pottery, the fortress of Borj el-Kebir and the colourful main town of Houmt Souq, with its labyrinthine streets, fishing port and marina, whitewashed houses and tempting pavement cafes are more than enough reasons to be persuaded, when visiting, not to spend all the time on Djerba's equally fabulous beaches!