During your time in Tunisia, you’ve stuck to the coast. You started in Tunis, the cosmopolitan capital that mixes Arab and European cultures. You explored outside of the city and found a blue-and-white village called Sidi Bou Saïd. Then you traveled south to Sousse and fell in love with its waterfront boulevard, congested old quarter, and gorgeous beaches. But now it’s time to leave the coast. Don’t worry, you’re not heading toward the Libyan border. You’re actually going out to sea.
You’re on a ferry bound for the Kerkennah Islands. Tunis and Sousse were great introductions to Tunisian culture, but that doesn’t mean they were quiet and peaceful. These seven islands—two main and five smaller ones—are known for their sheltered bays and little villages, colorful boats and long-established fishing methods. Life is simpler here.
The Kerkennah Islands sit off the east coast of Tunisia in the Gulf of Gabès. The low-lying islands have been remarkably unscathed by history. Expect for the Romans, who used the islands as a lookout point, and the Spanish, who built a fort upon the ancient ruins, the islands have been relatively undisturbed. Severe weather conditions, like drought and strong prevailing winds, have been—and remain—bigger issues. The islands’ population continues to decrease because of them.
You arrive to find that the two main islands, Chergui and Gharbi, are connected by a causeway. Remla, the main town, stands as a midway point on Chergui’s east coast. Roads turn into tracks right outside of town. Borj el-Hissar, the Roman ruins where you can still see mosaics, looks like it’s crumbling into the sea. Fig and palm trees sway along the waterfront. Tortoises glide through the shallow water just offshore. Clay pots full of octopuses, soon to be dried and sold on the mainland, sit beside little fishing boats, which hold traps made of palm leaves. While every restaurant offers fresh seafood, hot tea, and a view of the turquoise water. This is the Tunisia you were hoping to find.