TAMAGHZA AND GOLDEN CANYON
There are 3 oases on the Tunisian-Algerian border. The largest of these is Tamaghza, less than 70 kilometers from the town of Tauzar, where at the turn of November and December the annual is organize International Oasis Festival. Near the village is one of the prettiest desert-mountain canyons in Tunisia, called the “Golden Canyon.” The most beautiful spot to be seen in the area except the canyon is the springs of pure water, flowing into the gorge in the form of amazing waterfalls.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THIS PLACE
In ancient times, the place was called Ad Turres. Thanks to its mountainous terrain with access to water, the town perform a function as a defensive fortress, established by the Roman Empire during its reign in North Africa. Today’s Tamaghza was also a refuge for the local Berber tribes in ancient times. In later centuries, during the Byzantine Empire, the village became the home of a bishopric. The road leading from Shabikah (As-Sabikah), with a length of less than 15 kilometers, was built during World War II. The order for the construction was given by Erwin Rommel, who was a German general field marshal, known as the “Desert Fox” due to his cunning. The reason for the construction was the siege carried out by the Allies, who came from the north. However, thanks to such a move, Rommel flew to break the besetment and turn his troops to the south. In 1930, prehistoric tools and household items, made of stone and clay, were found in the area.
Tamaghza or Tamerza is the largest mountainous oasis in Tunisia. Its main tourist attraction is the Golden Canyon, which is 1 kilometer from the center. Tamaghza is perched on top of a big canyon. It overlooks a vast plain that stretches until to Tunisia’s largest salt lake, called the Chott el Djerid (Chott el-Jerid). In the town there is a 4-star hotel (link here) with beautiful views of the Sahara and an old village. The town can be reached by bus, by off-road vehicle, which can be rented in Tauzar, and by public transportation.
The canyon is surrounded by wild desert areas from the south. It is 3 kilometers long (1.8 miles), and the rocks are of contrasting red-orange colors. The colors of the canyon change within the day. It depends on the sunlight, so the canyon looks different at any time. On the gorge can be moved on foot or by renting a donkey, but this is not always possible. While walking through the canyon, you will encounter many small waterfalls, falling in cascades from cracks in the rock. There are two restaurants and a few stalls with soft drinks and tea, but anyway better to take food and something to drink (not alcoholic beverages) with you. The path to the canyon is full of stalls with souvenir. The most visited area of Tamerza Canyon is the route around the Great Cascade, where several dozen of buses with tourists arrive every day. The environment is quite “bleak,” and the main source of income for the residents is sell souvenirs. You can buy all kinds of ceramics, jewelry, shisha, traditional dresses and stuffed desert animals.
WHERE IS TAMAGHZA LOCATED?
Tamaghza is located 14 kilometers north of the village of Shabikah (As-Sabikah), near the Algerian border and 70 kilometers from Tauzar, from where most trips to this site are conducted. It is located at an altitude of more than 300 meters above sea level. Like Shabika, the original village was abandoned by locals after devastating rains in 1969. Its ruins still stand, and residents have moved to a new town, called New Tamerza (New Tameghza), a few hundred meters further west. Tameghza has a population of just over 2,500.
WHAT ELSE CAN BE SEEN EXCEPT THE CANYON?
Natives call the ruins of the former village “the sleeping village of Tamerza.” Some evenings, in the Tamerza Palace & Spa, which has been “watching over” the new village since 1992, holds mystical evenings during which more than 5,000 candles are light.
The sky above the Tamaghza oasis is not “polluted” by artificial light. As a result, during the desert Saharan night silence, it is possible to observe millions of stars, and if you are lucky, also galaxies.
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW
The main good on display at roadside souvenir stalls are the so-called “roses of the desert.” They are collected in the Sahara by children and Arab youth. Local dates are also worth trying.
In the vicinity of the Golden Canyon and the Tamaghza oasis, one should look out for scorpions found in the desert. For this reason, remember in order that always wear covered footwear, preferably made of thicker material.
One should remember that in the desert the days are very hot (remember about hydrate properly during the day), however the nights are cool. Here is a link where you can check the current weather in Tamerza.
- Some scenes for the movie “The English Patient” were filmed in Tamaghza. It is an American war romance filmed 1996 directed by Anthony Minghella.
- In October 2000, scenes for the film “In Desert and Wilderness” were shot here.
Being in the western part of Tunisia, near the Chott el Djerid Lake, Tamaghza is definitely worth a visit. Oases in the middle of the desert are rare, and certainly be good to see such a place with your own eyes. In addition, besides crossing across the Golden Canyon and observing the starry Tunisian sky, there is the possibility of driving off-road vehicles in the nearby desert, which can be rented in the town of Tauzar. Therethrough that Tamaghza is not a large town and does not have many hotels on offer, you can count on quiet and atmospheric evenings among the Sahara desert winds.
Wicheh, source commons.wikimedia.org, (photo edited).
Jerzy Strzelecki, source commons.wikimedia.org.
Jerzy Strzelecki, marketplace near The Great Cascade, source commons.wikimedia.org.