Tourist Sights The City of Troglodytes in Matmata Tunisia

About the unique tourist sight the City of Troglodytes in Matmata, Tunisia, location, history, and description of the site.




Sight: City of Troglodytes.

First driven underground by ancient enemies who invaded their country, the residents of Matmata like their cavelike dwellings so much that they have stayed there ever since. Today this village in southern Tunisia boasts several thousand hospitable troglodytes (cave dwellers), several of whom will show you around their houses. Steps or earthen ramps lead downward approximately 25 ft. to open courtyards, off of which may lie several habitable rooms, storerooms, and even rooms for chickens or goats. Often a narrow shaft from the surface permits occupants to drop dates, olives, and grain directly into storerooms. Though summers are scorching, these subterranean houses remain cool. Life is simple here. The women spin wool without a spinning wheel or weave blankets on their ancestral looms, while the men cultivate the land. There are even two underground hotels, where you may receive dinner, bed, and breakfast for a very reasonable price. Not all the rooms have private baths, however, and you may find yourself with several roommates. Also, there are some upstairs rooms best left to the more athletic. You have to shinny up a rope, using hollows in rocks as footholds, to get to them. One cave serves as a cocktail lounge; bottles are stored in rock crevices behind the bar. The courtyard is bordered with stools, where guests may enjoy their drinks as they watch jugglers, belly dancers, and snake charmers perform. A few years back, the Tunisian government offered to build modern masonry houses for the entire population of the town, and a few people were persuaded to abandon their underground ways. Today their white houses surrounded by greenery face the old town across the valley. By far the majority, however, chose to remain in their subterranean dwellings.

Location: About 50 mi. south of Gabes.

Seeing It: Fly to Gabes by way of Tunis, then rent a car and ask for specific directions. Five and six-day bus tours from tunis, 270 mi. away, include Matmata in their itinerary.

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