Medenine is an important town in southeast Tunisia, close to Metameur and south of the port of Gabes, en route to the border with Libya. The town is the regional capital of the Medenine province and was once one of the many stops on the North African caravan route.
The traditional loaf-shaped mud cells called ghurfas were traditionally used to store grain and are the town’s main claim to fame. Although the foundations are centuries old they have been continually maintained and are now used as interesting souvenir and carpet shops. Unfortunately large areas of the ghurfa quarters were demolished in the 1920s to make way for the more modern town. Those that are left are now preserved. They contrast with the more modern architecture to provide an interesting and charming place to visit. The ghurfa buildings were commonly used by nomads of the Berber Touazine and Khezour tribes to provide storage and a semi-permanent base where families could meet up, goods could be sold and conflicts resolved. They were built side by side and up to six storeys high, resembling a honeycomb. From the 17th century onwards Medenine was an important market and trading centre, part of the Ouerghamma federation.
At its peak, the town had 8,000 small mud-built ghurfas and traders arrived from Algeria, Libya and further afield to do business. The more modern town is friendly and lively, particularly in the evenings. Local things to do in the area include visiting the Musée de Guellala which is a museum and exhibition of the Medenine area. Medenine also makes a good base for exploring the small hill villages in the area. Large trees now provide shade over the colourful fruit and vegetable market, another of Medenine’s popular tourist attractions on Mondays and Thursdays.
Visitors will be interested to know that part of the film “Star Wars” was filmed in Medenine in the 1970s.
The nearest airport to Medenine is at Djerba, about 70km away. From there buses and car rentals are readily available for the final journey to Medenine. Trains also run to Djerba from Tunis. There are plenty of bus services and shared taxis which connect with most large cities around the country, making Medenine very cheap and easy to reach. The bus station is on the Tatouine Road.
Where to StayMedenine has a wide choice of hotels in town offering good value for money. The Hotel Essada is a recommended budget hotel and costs around 8 Tunisian dinar per night. Mid range hotels such as the Etape Sangho and the Sahara are not always all they promise with air conditioning breaking down, or non-existent. More expensive choices include the Corinthia Khamsa Gammarth and the El Mouradi Mahdia.
There are many places to eat in Medenine and the most expensive are not necessarily the best. Generally visitors will not be disappointed with the food and the prices are very reasonable.
The modern town has some bars and alcohol is served in the better restaurants.
Climate in Medenine
Medenine has a generally hot climate with plenty of sunshine. Winters are moderate.
Medenine has a number of banks which offer currency exchange and ATMs.
The town is easy to get around on foot. For longer distances use the local bus or shared taxis called louages.