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Report 1993: Tunisia - the South and the Desert

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 7 of 17: Nefta

photo by MAW

Ouled ech Cherif

Nefta is about 40 minute drive from Tozeur across the flat stony desert with little vegetation. It is close to the Algerian border. Architecturally it is similar to Tozeur but receives far fewer tourists.

First stop was the viewpoint above the Corbeille which is a huge depression about 40m deep. It originally had springs flowing from its sides but these have dried up as the water table has fallen. At the north end is a large bathing pool fed by hot springs which was built as a reservoir to irrigate the crops in the Corbeille.

It was empty when we visited and looking dirty. Water was running into it but then ran straight through into the irrigation channel through the palmeraie. Many trees are beginning to die and the area is becoming arid and rubbish strewn.

We were taken to a traditional brick makers on the edge of the town above the palmeraie. Two men work here using clay from the mountains. It is mixed every day in a trough with water and then stored under polythene until used. Lumps are taken from the store and used to fill wooden moulds with a handle which make two bricks at a time. They make about 1000 bricks a day. Ash is sprinkled on top of the damp clay to make the bricks stronger and to help drying. They are left in the sun to dry for one day in summer and three days in winter before being stacked up for another two days. They are baked for 24 hours at 3000˚C in a kiln fired with palm leaves. 5000 leaves are needed per firing and there were huge piles of them around the site. The kiln takes two to three days to cool down. The kiln takes 10-11,000 bricks per firing. It was a fascinating and well worthwhile visit.

We drove back to Nefta to walk around Ouled Ech Charif area which is the best preserved part of the old town with winding vaulted alleyways lined with house walls, some with ornate doorways. There are long drainpipes projecting off the buildings and channels collect water off the roofs. The decorative brickwork on the buildings is less ornate than in Tozeur.

This was a long way to drive from Tamerza. We enjoyed the watching the brick making which made the trip worthwhile. Ouled Ech Charif was interesting but the Corbeille area is looking very sad.

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