I have been intending to go to El Jem for quite some time but being up…
At the moment when you arrive in Remada (probably from the north, 80 km of good road from Tataouine) you will have passed through long stretches of almost uninhabited desert. You will have passed one or two houses lying isolated near a tiny well, so Remada comes as quite a shock, and from quite different reasons than you might expect. Around this small town there is a forest and it all looks fresh and friendly. It is not like an oasis, the forest has trees that normally grow in the north of Tunisia.
The town centre is nice enough, but of course nothing impressive since this is a small town. While walking around the town centre, you will have no problems discovering the military presence. Many houses are military (with photo prohibitions), there are many uniformed soldiers in the streets, and there is near total dominance of men in the streets.
I came on the weekly market day, and while the market is small it is still interesting to watch. Men come out of the desert to sell simple products, some few vegetables and camels. The last merchandise is most interesting from a visitors point of view: Too many “camel markets” in North Africa are only staged for tourism, but the one in Remada is real.
The hutted camp
Remada is divided into two zones, the white centre and the hutted camp. The first is dominated by the military, while the second is the place where people live. It is not huts, but normal (boring) modern brick houses just like you will be able to find in the poorer outskirts of any Tunisian town.
There is one road leading down from town centre, and you will have the one-floor houses on your right hand. On your left hand, though, there will be tents, self-made huts and camels. Quite fascinating! One road divides the same people into two cultures, and in few years the tents could all be left for the apparent comfort of brick houses.
Below the town centre and next to the road leading to the Libyan border 40 km away, there is a small oasis. It is nothing like the effective oases near Chott el Jerid, but a handful of houses that reside along the side from where the source comes from. This small area, no more than 100 metres wide and less than 1 km long, has a diversified agriculture. I counted many different plants and trees, and in between goats were herded. Expect to arouse a bit of attention if you should enter, but it only took me a minute to see suspicion turned into friendliness in the peoples’ faces.
Kids playing football in the outskirts of the oasis
Forest in the desert
What a surprise. Around Remada there is not an oasis, but a forest. Nothing fake here, and from a distance Remada first appears as a green elevation from the barren ground.
Hotels and Alternatives
Nothing. Sleep in Tataouine (90 km).
Restaurants and Alternatives
Very little, one bad restaurant and some cafés in town. For any form of serious eating, do it in Tataouine.
No reports of banks. As above.
Shared taxis will bring you back to Tataouine, but remember that you’re out in early-morning-rise-and-shine country, so do not plan your return after 15 o’clock.
As you’re coming out into these parts of Tunisia, do not leave your passport in your hotel. There are some check points along the route.