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Report 1993: Tunisia - the South and the Desert

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 11 of 17: The Troglodyte Houses in Matmata

photo by MAW

Troglodyte house courtyard

Matmata is beloved by Star War fans for the troglodyte houses. It receives a lot of visitors and has become very commercialized. We saw many parked cars and tourists swarming about taking photographs. We had read in the guide books that many of the troglodyte houses in Matmata itself are now tourist attractions. You are encouraged to go in and have a look and then a donation is demanded.

Our driver 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 the house with a small child. Rooms for the animals are carved into the 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 two small gas rings for cooking and storage area at back. There was no electricity and no fridge. Water is brought to the house in large cans. It was a well worth while visit.

We drove 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 point 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 with metal doors. There was a ‘Control Panel’ on one wall and various big pipes. It looked and felt tacky. Tourist tat outside with a baby camel didn’t improve our impressions. This was a waste of time.

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