The region that dips its toe down into the depths of the Sahara between Algeria and Libya is known as the Ksour and throughout history has been known for its lawlessness and banditry. Until the 19th century few Europeans had ventured down here and in fact until 1956 large parts were still under military administration. As opposed to the flat areas to the west, the south's arid mountains are impressive, made even more so by the presence of some ancient Berber villages such as Douret, Chenini and Guermessa. Lets not also forget the fortified communal granaries built for the region's nomadic tribes and which give the region its name.
More recently much of the region has become famous as a backdrop for the Star Wars films.
In addition, I have also included photos of the magical island of the lotus eaters - Jerba.
The Berbers of Matmata solved the problem of baking hot summers and cold winters by building their homes underground. Fortunately for them the soft crumbly sandstone was easy to dig. The town was then 'discovered' by George Lucas and one of the houses became the set for Luke Skywalkers house (above). Despite many thousands of tourists coming here over the years the set still looks much as it was when built almost 30 years ago. It is now a hotel.
A Ksar (Ksar being the singular of Ksour) is basically a fortified granary. The local Berber nomads would each have one or two ghorfas (the individual units) and as they all faced inwards they were easy to defend against brigands. They are now all disused, but one or two have been converted into (very basic) hotels like Ksar Hallouf (above) where we stayed a night. This spot is in the middle of nowhere at the end of a rough old track. But we managed to get there in our battered old Toyota and were rewarded by enjoying the amazing countryside by ourselves.
Chenini is one of the Berber villages in the area and like the others is precariously situated on a ridge in the mountains for protection. Like other villages it is slowly being abandoned as the isolation and protection which people once sought is now a hindrance rather than a benefit.
Ksar Ouled Soltane. (Despite being in the desert it can still get pretty cold in winter, hence the jumper and scarf!)
Playing Tunisian checkers with stones and camel dung
A fortified mosque typical of Jerba
Jerban women are famous for wearing their white shawls and straw hats.
Jerba used to have quite a large Jewish population which has gradually disappeared to Israel. However the Synagogue have been preserved and this one - El Ghriba is still a place of pilgrimage for Jews from all over North Africa.