The oasis of Tozeur, a city-symbol of southern Tunisia, is one of the gates to the Sahara. There are no dunes here, but there is a desert landscape that appears in the distance, on the El-Jerid chott. The palm grove of Tozeur is said to be the most beautiful in all of the country.
In spring, when the overwhelming summer heat has not yet completely dried up the landscape, palm trees, fruit trees and various different other plants flourish to the sound of the two hundred springs of water that irrigate the oasis. In terms of a first trip to the desert, it's a good place to try.
If you like art and culture, visit the 'Planet Oasis'. This brand new cultural centre houses a huge Berber tent where traditional banquets take place, as well as several galleries. The work of a wide range of contemporary artists is exhibited here too; there is kitchenware for tea and coffee, lamps made from blown glass, pottery and paintings. You will also find an ampitheatre where you can watch a show tracing Tozeur's history every evening, except Sundays.
Walking is one of the best ways to discover the secrets of Tozeur. Start with the old quarter of Ouled el-Hadef, the panoramic viewpoint, the Paradise gardens, the Paradise zoo and the palm grove. If you're in search of a more organised tour, they are usually by 4x4 and cover the El-Djerid chott, the Red Lizard, the mountains oasis and Nefta, a charming oasis, which you should also visit if you travel to Tozeur.
The Red Lizard is one of the most unmissable trips there are to take in Tozeur. This train journey will take you back to the beginning of the 20th century. It has been preserved as it used to be, with lounges and leather tapestries and armchairs. The buffet car is decorated with elaborate woodwork where you can enjoy traditional snacks. The line heads towards the phosphate mine and leaves from Métlaoui. Crossing the gorges of Selja, the ribbed rocks and rivers that carry green clay are what waits for you outside the window.
The Museum of popular arts and traditions, in the old town is definitely worth a visit. The Dar Cheraït museum, next to the hotel of the same name, has pieces of Tunisian and Ottoman art that date back to the 17th and 20th centuries. You should also try and see the Thousand and One Nights theme park if you can, which is at the entrance of the Tozeur medina.
The best place to discover the abandoned village of Tamerza is the hotel there. The Tamerza Palace is built right in front of the ruins and it is worth spending at least one night here. Prices are reasonable, the food is good and most importantly, you have the privilege of admiring the village any time you want, from your bedroom, the swimming pool or the restaurant.
Organised tours are usually carried out in 4x4 vehicules. Whether the destination is the Chott el Jerid or the mountain oasis (Tamerza, Chebika and Midès), you will end up in a convoy of cars that will take you to visit places with around 30 people, sometimes more in high season. Alternatively you can rent a car, which gives you a better chance of getting there early to see the sun rise. It should be noted that the evenings can get quite busy, as watching the sun set has turned into quite the attraction.
The palm grove of Tozeur produces dozens of types of figs. Sahel couscous (with the desert being so close) as well as all other regional specialties such as tajine, brick, fingers of Fatma and chorba. Be aware, however, that buffet service in the hotels is generally less 'attractive' than in those of Hammamet or Djerba. A good restaurant to remember is Tamerza Palace, that you will find inside a hotel located opposite the village of Tamerza.
You could bring back a carpet with motifs of the south (stylised dromadaries). You will find all kinds of crafts made from wrought iron, glass, leather, pottery and woven reeds. There are lots of things to buy for decorating bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens with lamps, vases, small furniture, plates and dishes made of clay. You can even go directly to the manufacturers; addresses can be asked for at the souk, or in hotels.
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