Tataouine (pronounced Tat-oo-een) is in the far south of Tunisia and sees very few tourists. It is 194 km from Djerba International Airport and 89 km west of Ben Gardane. The town is the capital of the Governorate of Tataouine and has around 60,000 inhabitants. It is well known for its stunning landscapes. It is one of the few towns in Tunisia to have welcome signs in French, Arabic and English.
The name Tataouine means “water source” and the town was once an oasis for Berber caravans travelling between Gabes, Fezzan and the Sudan. It is the gateway to the hilly southern desert terrain of Tunisia and is traditionally the home of the nomadic Berber people. Each year the Ksar Festival celebrates the skills of these native people. It is held during late March or April and lasts for five days with exciting camel races, riding skills, sports, demonstrations and is a traditional time for weddings to take place. Tataouine was once an important army base in Tunisia in the late 19th century and was the site of the military prison of the French army until 1938. It has been replaced with a Tunisian military barracks just outside the town. It’s now popular with Star Wars fans as the town lent its name to the home of Luke Skywalker making the town sign a great photo opportunity. Star Wars filming actually took place at nearby Matmata, Ksar Hadada and on the island of Jerba. The architecture is very plain and ordinary and the highlight of the week is the two markets on Mondays and Thursdays.
It has a mosque, slaughterhouse, post office, clinic, schools, a court, church and a synagogue.The buildings of the ksour are quite historic although most of the town is modern. These buildings were once fortified Berber granaries and include the picturesque Ksar Ouled Soltane and the well-known Ksar Hadada. These abandoned vaulted adobe buildings make an interesting sight. They were never used as homes but the nomads used them to store their valuables when they left to travel with their animals. A stroll around the ksour reveals some excellent views of over the whole town from the hilltop location.Another piece of history is the site where on June 27, 1931 a meteorite of the rare achondrite type impacted at Tataouine and about 12 kg of fragments were found. The meteorite was made up of a mineral called Diogenite.
From the airport at Djerba, local buses and shared taxis are the best way to reach Tataouine. Hire cars are also available to cover the 194 km journey.
Where to Stay
Tataouine has a choice of cheap and medium priced hotels. One of the nicest is the three star Hotel Dakyanus which is in a modern building with a swimming pool and surrounded by an orchard. Another older resort is the Sangho Privilege Tataouine which also has a swimming pool, tennis courts and restaurants or try the Mabrouk next door which is equally nice to stay at with a lower price.
The town has several local restaurants. La Mida restaurant at the Hotel Dakyanus is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also a small and intimate La Tajine restaurant at the hotel serving a la carte dishes. The Sangho has a restaurant which is open to non-residents and overlooks the pool and bar.
There are several cafés which are open well into the night and the locals are friendly and keen to chat with visitors. The Sangho occasionally puts on live entertainment. Younger visitors will prefer the bar next door at the Mabrouk.
Climate in Tataouine
The climate in Tataouine is pratically Saharan with almost non-existent rainfall. An occasional shower in spring or autumn will make the surrounding desert bloom. The area has hot dusty winds from the southwest, known as “chili” which is accompanied by blistering heat in the summer. Maximum temperatures of 50C (122F) have been recorded on rare occasions. At night the temperatures drop suddenly to 23C (74F) in August and 6C (43F) in January. Best times to visit Tataouine are between March and June and September through December.
There are plenty of banks with ATMs and the hotels have money exchange services.TransportFor visiting the nearby Berber villages, use a local taxi which should be around 15 dinars per destination. There are 5-6 villages which can be seen on a tour. Buses and shared taxis (louages) also are good for getting around to the north but in the south near the border you cannot freely move around.