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What does Djerba, one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world, have in common with oblivion, one of the most extreme states of mind into which the human psyche can descend? Odysseus, the mythological character who landed on the African island in Homer's The Odyssey. The Greek hero and his crew encountered the population of Lotus-Eaters on the island of Djerba and, giving in to persuasion, they began to eat the lotus flower, entering an irrecoverable state of oblivion and losing their memories of their past life and their homeland. It was thanks to the forceful action of Odysseus, who chained and dragged his crew on board the ships, that their journey continued.
It was this mythological meeting that earned Djerba the nickname of "island of oblivion", which it still retains today. And it is likely that tourists who come to this corner of paradise on vacation will experience the same feelings as Odysseus and his crew, losing touch with reality. The wonderful white beaches fringed with palm trees, the shallow, turquoise sea, the year-round mild climate, the fascinating dunes and the traditional markets: all this makes Djerba a place where drifting into oblivion becomes a conscious decision for visitors.
Djerba has played an important role since its origins: in 251 A.D. Trebonianus Gallus and his son Volusianus were proclaimed Roman emperors there, perhaps even they were fascinated by the majestic landscape and captivated by the lotus flower. Throughout its history, the island has been invaded by many populations, each of which left a legacy of customs and traditions that the centuries have skilfully blended into one extraordinary culture: from the Romans to the Normans, the Arabs to the Spaniards.
Djerba, whose name comes from Jerba one of the three major cities, is the most well-known tourist resort in Tunisia and one of the most popular in the Mediterranean. It is the largest natural island of North Africa but nowadays, thanks to the Romans who built a 6 km bridge that unites the island to the mainland, you don't need to take a ferry to get there. Currently home to 145,000 inhabitants, the vast majority of which are of Berber origin, more than a third live in the capital, Houmt-Souk which, in the Berber language, means "market". The souk, confirmation of the city's name, is one of the most picturesque areas and here you can find a concentration of an impressive amount of merchandise of all kinds: from food, to local handicrafts, from gold and silverwork to ceramics and carpets.
But the capital of Djerba is also famous for the Bordj-er-Rious, an imperious and macabre pyramid constructed in the middle of the 16th century from over 5,000 heads of as many Spanish sailors killed in battle against the fleet of the Ottoman privateer, Turgut Reis. He erected this monument as a warning to foreign ships with vain hopes of battling in those waters. Fortunately today, after over 300 years, the pyramid has been replaced by a commemorative plaque and the bones of the hapless Spanish sailors have been given a dignified burial in the Christian cemetery of Houmt-Souk.
But in addition to the capital, Djerba also boasts other villages to visit, each with its own charm and its own story to tell. There is Ajiim, famous for sponge fishing, El-May with its colorful market, Fatou with its baskets handmade by skilled craftsmen, Guellala, famous for the production of ceramics since the time of King Midas, and many others.
Anyone expecting to arrive on an arid and inhospitable island will soon change their mind: thanks to almost 3,000 fresh water wells on the island, it is almost as if Djerba is a great oasis in the middle of the sea: a million date palms, almost 700,000 olive trees (some seem more than 3,000 years old), fields of apricots, figs, lemons, mandarins, oranges and pomegranates. The only thing that you will not find on the island is the lotus flower, which remains in the mythological pages of Homer but has never made a real appearance on the island.
Experience a vacation filled with magical emotions, book your Alitalia flight to Djerba now.