As Tozeur is a little bit shorter trip for most travellers, Nefta gets far less visitors…
Ain Draham is a small city in northwest Tunisia, about 25km south of Tabarka in the Jendouba Governorate. It has just over 10,800 inhabitants according to the 2004 census. It is at an elevation of 823 metres or 2,700 feet above sea level, on the green forested slopes of the Djebel Bir in the Kroumirie Mountains.
The town stands on a hillside which is scored with many way-marked footpaths through the dense forests. Historically it was a military outpost, a summer resort and a souk, but modern-day Ain Draham is a regional economic hub. It was built for the French colonialists and is just a few kilometres from the Algerian border.
The nice villas with their whitewashed facades and red tile roofs are interspersed with more run-down properties as is typical in Tunisia. As well as having traces of french architecture, the keyhole shaped doorways and tiled surrounds have a distinctly Muslim influence.The dense forests of corks, pines and oaks and the flower-strewn meadows come as a complete surprise to those who thought Tunisia’s hinterland was totally dry and desert-like.
This area has the highest average rainfall in Tunisia at 1534mm per year which keeps the fields green and the forests lush. The locals make a living as farmers of cattle and horses. They also benefit from tourism as they cater to the steady stream of hunters, hikers and tourists who find their way into Ain Draham. The forests are a sanctuary for the wild boars that thrive in the area as well as civets, foxes and deer. The last lion was shot in the forest in the early 1800s and the last panther was shot more recently in 1932. German hunters love the forested areas for hunting wild boar and deer. Other sports which are available around Ain Draham are horse riding and hiking.
The area around Ain Draham is popular for all levels of hiking, and even the locals will set off on family hikes. There are well-trod paths leading to the Col des Ruines and to the summit of Jebel Bir. Algeria is within easy reach but it is not advisable to cross the border.The countryside to the south of Ain Draham is very scenic. The roads winds through the forests and past the Beni M dam before descending to the drier areas around Fernana. The lower you travel, the higher the temperatures rise!
The name Ain Draham refers to the sulphurous hot springs which are found in the area – another reason why the Romans chose this site for their encampment. Ruins of Roman baths can be seen nearby with the remains of vaulted archways and pillars. The natural thermal spa waters gush out of the rocks at a steady 50°F. Within the town, the main street has a scattering of cafés, local restaurants and hotels. The shops cater to tourists by selling carved furniture, wood products and local souvenirs.
A trip to Ain Draham is well worth taking for the varied scenery and wonderful views. The road zig-zags frequently requiring endless gear changes as it rises and falls with some sharp hairpin bends.
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