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Photographer's Note

Shot inside of the Guellala Museum.

The museum is fairly big, featuring a large collection of traditional artifacts used in the near past in daily life, economic activities, ceremonies, and festivities, most of them staged with dummies and music. Although a bit naive (or because of that), it's a charming place to visit, specially if you have children. It's located in a low hill on the top of the village of Guellala, facing the small Gulf of Bou Grara, the shalow piece of sea that separates the island from the continent. From its entrance one enjoys a very nice view of the village, the gulf and the mainland.

Guellala is famous all over Tunisia for its pottery and it looks like this was one of the main reasons to have the museum built here.

Jerba or Djerba is a charming small island on the Southern coast of Tunisia. It's relatively well preserved, at least if one takes into account the level of 'development' (construction, mass tourism, you name it) it has. It is a very pleasant place for spending some days on the beach and complement that with some sight seeing, driving and strolling in the little villages. The 'monuments' aren't nothing special 'monumentality' wise, but it has a couple of charming little mosques, with an original architecture traditional of the island, an old castle originally built in the 13th Century by one Aragonese (Spanish) King of Sicily, a nice sinagogue, which is the more important Jew pilgrimage site of North Africa, and two ethnographic museums, one in the small capital town of Houmt Souk and this big one.

The island is referred in ancient historic texts since the time of Carthaginians, who had an important settlement here. They called it Meninx, "the land of the receding waters", a reference to the high tides observed in the island, much unusual in the Mediterranean, where it's rare to observe any noticeable tide activity.

Some believe that the island appears in Homer's Odyssey as the 'Land of the Lotus-Eaters', but Menorca and Gozo also claim that glory.

During Roman times the island was famous for the production of purple cloth, which only the imperial family and very high rank oficials were allowed to wear, as it was a sign of imperial importance.

Throughout history, the place had many foreign rulers (Arabs, Sicilians, Spaniards, Genovese and Turks), periods of independence in a more or less extensive scale, staged much revolts and didn't enjoy much long periods of peace until the French domination arrived at the end of the 19th Century.

It was an important terminal for trans-Sahara trade, since the times of Carthaginians, maybe 2300 years ago or more. One important sad business were slaves, whose trade only ended in 1846. In the 16th Century it was also an important pirate base, namely for the famous Turkish corsair and admiral Barbarossa Pasha and his proteg, Dragut.

The island had an important Jewish community that is now almost extinct, after most of its members having fled to Israel after the independance of Tunisia in the 1950's. However, most of those emigrants still keep their ties with Djerba, with most of them returning in the Summer holidays and during more important religious festivals. The relations between Muslims and Jews are traditionally very good and peaceful, but recently there were a couple of nasty incidents (1985 and 2002) in the major sinagogue of the island, in which several persons died.

Nearly all the population is Muslim. Aproximately half of them are Kharijites. The Kharijites, also known as Ibadites and Wahabites (not related with the others much more famous Wahabites of Saudi Arabia), are an ascetic and quite puritan sect of Islam more or less hostile to both mainstream Sunnis and Shi'ites. They are very strict in their religious practice and austerity. Interestingly and happily, that doesn't seem to imply any animosity against other Muslims or other religions, as the island is a very easy going place, where one feels little or no animosity against foreigners, well at contrary. Apparently they guard their fundamentalism to their own conduct and don't try to impose their believes and moral to others.

Links:
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djerba
* http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,10325-2289002.html

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I have other posts of the museum (II, III, IV and V) and a 'travelogue' of this trip of mine to Tunisia (not a real travelogue, I have set it up just to group the posts).

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Additional Photos by Jose Pires (stego) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4422 W: 612 N: 7301] (24132)
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