Traditional Berber pit-houses show a perfect solution to the difficult problem of adapting the zone’s extremely warm climate - the best defence against summer heat.
According to the historians, the Matmata Berbers built their underground homes to escape the notice of their enemies and to protect themselves from Arab incursions.
Underground houses were also very practical from construction point of view.
It was easier to dig into the mountains’ soft cohesive sandstone rather then use it as a building material.
The pits are circular and around 30 feet (9 metres) in both debt and diameter.
An open air entrance starts some distance away to allow gentle slope through the side of the hill.
Above the entrance you may find painted blue symbols of fish, star and a hand of Fatima which may protect inhabitants from bad luck.
The fish is a good luck charm and the hand and five fingers represent the five pillars of Islam.
Houses have an open air courtyard (haush) which is surrounded by the 20 feet long rooms.
In summer, the temperature inside the house can be around 30 degrees cooler than in the midday heat above the ground level.
Nowadays, some of those Berber dwellings have been adapted as hotels, so if you plan to stay in Matmata for day or two, you can spend a night there and try real Berber’s way of life.
If you like photography and a feeling of being independent and flexible, you should consider to hire a car to explore Tunisia.
In general, in Tunisia it is not too difficult to hire a 4x4 with a driver, which you can do from your local travel office.
It is very handy to have a local driver who knows the country, so you do not have to worry about being lost on the desert.
Tunisians are usually very warm and friendly towards all tourists and will be happy to drive you through their picturesque country, and for a couple of dinars will tell you plenty of interesting stories.
This way of travelling is obviously a bit more expensive than travelling with a group of tourists on the bus.
However, it offers greater flexibility, so you can visit the most interesting places and stop your car to take a photo every time you see something nice.
If you decide to visit Matmata during the organised you should be prepared that your bus will not stop very often, so your opportunities to take interesting photos will be limited.
You will also be a little bit restricted and explore only pre-selected for you places which potentially could not be the most interesting ones.
PUBLISHED ON 1 JANUARY 2010
BY GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURES
PHOTOGRAPHS BY AREK & VIOLA
The most interesting tourist attractions and things to see and do in Matmata include:
Matmata is located approximately 40 km south from Gabes.
Due to its scenic desert landscapes and close proximity to the Sahara Desert, Douz and Chott el-Jerid, Matmata has become an obligatory stopover for all organised to the Sahara Desert.
Matmata became even more famous as the scenes of Star Wars and Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark) blockbuster movies where shot here.
One of the traditional Berber houses - one of the must see tourist attractions in Matmata
The entrance to the underground Berber house in Matmata
Landscapes of Matmata - palm trees on the desert
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The must see tourist attractions in Matmata are definitely traditional underground Berber houses (indigenous nomadic people of North Africa) located along both sides of scenic C107 road and picturesque landscapes of surrounding mountains and the Matmata Valley.
The Berber houses are usually open to all visitors and one can visit them free of charge.
However, the owners of the house would appreciate if you could give them a couple of dinars for the visit.
Visit Matmata if you would like to discover desert scenic landscapes filmed in Indiana Jones movies.”
Discover scenic landscapes of Matmata
beautiful but extremely warm place especially in summer - June to August.
About this article
Travel information presented in this article is based upon our own experience, which means that descriptions given here, necessarily contain an element of subjective opinion, which may not reflect your own experience on another occasion.
Information provided in this travel article was accurate at the time of our journey