• Keywords: Tunisia, Cultural Landscape, sea oasis, wetlands of the gulf of Gabès, Gabès, Chenini, Menzel, Jara, Petite Jara, traditional irrigation system.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

The Gabès Oasis is included in the Tentative List of UNESCO, with date of submission: 28/05/2008, criteria: (iv)(vii)(x), category: mixed, and ref.: 5386. The Gabès Oases is recorded in the “Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East” (IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR, 1994) with the name “Wetlands of the Gulf of Gabes”.

  • Tentative List of UNESCO
  • RAMSAR
  • IUCN

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

Gabès lies on the coast of the Gulf of Gabès. This oasis has a unique feature in the world: in this city you find the mountain, the sea, the oasis and the desert. Gabes is something as strange as the worlds only seaside oasis. This oasis shows an unique sample of interaction between human being and nature, composing a living continuing landscape illustrated by especific agricultural and irrigation systems in a sea landscape. In general, oases are considered by UNESCO and Med-O-Med as sample of the human genius in action. Skills, and particularly traditional know-how in coping with a hostile environment that is scarce in resources, appeared in the development of techniques enabling water (and land) to be used more judiciously, whether available permanently or cyclically. Basis on the UNESCO definition of Cultural Landscape (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008), considering this region as a result of “the combined works of nature and of man”, Med-O-Med resolves to value this site as a Cultural Landscape because of: -Its Natural Heritage Components: The site is Known for its attractive beach (as Lemaya beach), the wetlands of the Gulf of Gabès, from Sfax to Zarzis including the offshore islands, and the unusual seaside oasis (Gabès is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea). While the city is not that great, exploring the two parts of the oasis, the one between the city and the sea, and the one between the city and the desert, is fascinating. The oasis has some special particularities: a sandy soil which have been enrichment by years of traditional agriculture and natural fertilizers, enough suberranean water, great palm gardens farmed by human being. The oasis occupies 5 km of dates (there are more than 300.000 date palms), fruit trees, olives and legums…and also horticultural product as tomatoes, watermelons or onions. -Its Cultural Heritage Components: Gabès is famous for its traditional Souqs in Jarah, the Kornich, Sidi Boulbaba, the Mouradi school, and Zaouia Sidi Ahmed Toujani. The oasis has 4 lovely villages: Chenini, Menzel, Jara and Petite Jara. They are built in the traditional way. Also, the oasis is fed with a colective irrigation system that distribute the water from different fonts to a network of channels organized in crop terraces.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Gabès (Arabic: قابس‎), Cabès, Cabes, Kabes, Gabbs and Gaps.
  • Current denomination Gabès (Arabic: قابس‎), Cabès, Cabes, Kabes, Gabbs and Gaps.
  • Original denomination Gabès (Arabic: قابس‎), Cabes, Kabes, Gabbs and Gaps, the ancient Tacape.
  • Popular denomination Gabès (Arabic: قابس‎), Cabes, Kabes, Gabbs and Gaps, the ancient Tacape.
  • Address: Gabès is the capital city of the Gabès Governorate, a province of Tunisia. It lies on the coast of the Gulf of Gabès.
  • Geographical coordinates: Gabès Oasis: N33 51.971 E10 2.979 Wetlands of the Gulf of Gabes: from Sfax (34°44'N/10°46'E) to Zarzis (33°28'N/11°07'E).
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Gabès is the capital city of the Gabès Governorate, south of Tunisia. It lies on the coast of the Gulf of Gabès. Border: Ghannouch to the North, Oued Limaoua to the South, Mediterranean Sea to the East, Chenini to the West. The Wetlands of the Gulf of Gabes extend alongshore from Sfax to Zarzis and includes the offshore islands.
  • Access and transport facilities: -Airport: Matmata International Airport is in the city. -Railways: Gabès is terminus of a narrow gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) branch railway from the capital, and is the nearest railway station to the Libyan border at Ras Ajdir. Gabès has also one of the biggest ports in Tunisia, it is used usually to ship the mineral products from the city of Gafsa. -Roads: Gabès will be linked soon with the national motorway A4 ( Tunis - Ras Ajdir).
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Gabès Oasis Cultural Landscape (TUNISIA)

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Gabès Oasis Cultural Landscape (TUNISIA) 33.519710, 10.297900 Gabès Oasis Cultural Landscape (TUNISIA) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Tunisian Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Tunisian Government.
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: There is a Management Plan for the conservation of the biological heritage of the site.

4. HISTORY

Strabo refers to Tacape as an important entrepot of the Lesser Syrtis. Pliny (18.22) remarks that the waters of a copious fountain at Tacape were divided among the cultivators according to a system where each had the use of the water during a certain interval of time. The Tabula Peutingeriana shows Tacape between Marcomades and Sabratha. -7th century: The Muslim conquest (Al’Fatah Al’Islami). Muhammed’s companion Sidi Abou Loobaba Al’Ansarey settles in Gabès. -1881: Gabès comes under a French protectorate. -1940: Following the Fall of France, Gabès comes under German control. -1943: Gabès returns to French control with the help of the British (in the Mareth Line). The operation results in serious damage to the city infrastructure. -1945: The rebuilding of Gabès starts. -1956: Gabès reverts to Tunisian control with the independence of Tunisia from the French.

  • Oldest initial date /building and inauguration date: See point 4.1.
  • Dates of successive recycling to the original layout: See point 4.1.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: Coastal area
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Climate and environmental conditions: General overview of the country: Winter rains fall over the northern highlands, with the highest readings along the coast. On parts of the Monts de la Mejerda and Mogod Mountains, annual falls of 1500 mm have been received in what is the wettest part of North Africa. However, at sea level, at Bizerte (37°18'N/9°52'E), mean annual precipitation is 625 mm, declining inland to 490 mm at Zaghouan (36°24'N/10°08'E) some 600 m asl, although again, higher falls are recorded on the nearby massif of Jebel Zaghouan (1294 m). Rainfall is 500 mm/yr at Makthar (35°50'N/9°12'E), 934 m asl, farther south and east, while at an altitude of 68 m asl on the central lowlands, Kairouan (35°42'N/10°01'E) receives an average of 286 mm/rain/yr. Off the east coast, Jerba Island has an average annual receipt of 207 mm/yr. Rainfall varies considerably from year to year, e.g. Makthar received over 900 mm in 1963-64, but only 400 mm in 1966-67. Coastal temperatures are moderated by cool sea breezes, but may occasionally be raised to extremes by a hot dust laden wind from the Sahara. August is the warmest month and mean daily maxima at the coast are then in the region of 31-33°C, while in the northern interior they are 36-38°C. January is the coldest month, when mean daily minima range from 7-8°C at the coast and 3-4°C in the northern interior. Summer temperatures in the far south may exceed 48°C.
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: The Wetlands of the Gulf of Gabes extend alongshore from Sfax (34°44'N/10°46'E) to Zarzis (33°28'N/11°07'E) and includes the offshore islands. This part of the coast is tidal and mudflats are exposed around the KneIss Islands (34°22'N/10°19'E) at low tide.
Water resources:
  • Public
The oasis is based upon sources, 150 spread around the place, giving 650 litres of water each second. In the Wetlands of the Gulf of Gabes there are small lagoons on the coast and the total wetland area, lagoons and mudflats, may exceed 12.000 ha.
Vegetation:

The vegetation of the area is typical of the North African coast, with Zostera noltii on the mudflats, Ruppia nzaritinza in the lagoons, and species of Liinoniastruin, Halecneinon, Salicornia and Sarcocornia at the upper tidal limit. The area is important to wintering water-fowl. Egretta garzetta, Larus genei and Tringa totanus breed here, while Ardea cinerea, Calidris spp., Egretta alba, Limosa limosa, Numenius arquata, etc.

Land uses and economical activities:
Gabès is one of the biggest industrial cities in Tunisia. Most industries are chemical oriented, this is why the city offers one of the best chemistry degrees in Africa from the University of Gabès. The main industries are: Cement, Chemical products, Brick Factories, Oil refinery. The fishing port is best visited early in the day, when the boats come in and the catch is brought ashore. Later, the tempo goes down, and mending the fishing nets become the main activity. In the oasis, agriculture and pastoralism was always an important activity. Also comerce of agricultural products. In the from the proper sea oasis, lying between the market centre and the port, many other oasis communities lies. Chenini and El Aouadid are the most noteworthy. The latter even offers a crocodile farm, open for visitors.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
Palm fields, olives and fruit trees, legums and horticulture. The agricultural produce here is not of the highest quality, as the dates can't be used for export, and other kinds of crop is cultivated in-between the dates.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

Gabès is famous for its traditional Souqs in Jarah, it is known also for its attractive beach and the unusual seaside oasis (Gabès is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea). The best parts of the beach are in the south of the city (Road to Djerba). Gabès has a unique feature in the world, in this city you find the mountain, the sea, the oasis and the desert. The most visited place in Gabès is the town Matmata. The Wetlands of the Gulf of Gabes extend alongshore from Sfax to Zarzis and includes the offshore islands. This part of the coast is tidal and mudflats are exposed around the KneIss Islands at low tide.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

The main historical sites in Gabès are: Mausolée Sidi Boulbaba ElAnsari. L’école des Mouradi: (musée des coutumes et traditions). Zaouia Sidi Driss Zaouia Sidi Ahmed Toujani.

Art pieces, artesany, furniture and other elements:

Baskets are a local product of Gabes, clearly reflected in the many variations for sale in the market area in the modern town. Few of them are designed for tourist purposes — Gabes doesn’t see the large numbers of foreign visitors — which make them more of a true souvenir. And you might even well use your basket for carrying other souvenirs through the rest of your trip. Gabes is also well known for its henna, the colour paste used by mainly women to create temporary tatoos. In ancient times, silk was made here, making the city’s name then, Tacape, famous.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
Man-made elements related to water management:
  • Public
The oasis is fed with a colective irrigation system that distribute the water from different fonts to a network of channels organized in crop terraces.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Agriculture.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: Gabès has a population of 116,323 (census 2004), it is the 6th largest Tunisian city.
  • Languages and dialects: Arabic

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
The fast growing numbers of factories around the city has resulted in fairly serious pollution of the area and Gulf of Gabès. In recent years the government is working on new programs and laws to decrease the amount of pollution. The richness and the fertile conditions of the oasis are under constant challenge by the damp sea air. While agriculture goes on as always, not leaving an inch unused, but many of the more than 300,000 date palms are in increasingly poor condition.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:
Oases are privileged sites to breath in silence, to find ourselves and to observe the pure beauty of nature, including the stars that are brighting in the night sky, free of light pollution.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Gabès Oasis, the palm gardens and the traditional irrigation system. -Gabès beaches. -Villages: Chenini, Menzel, Jara, Petite Jara, Matmata. -The Wetlands of the Gulf of Gabes.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Ecological
  • Geological/Geographical
  • Living heritage
The main tangible values of "Gabès Oasis Cultural Lanscape" are: -Aesthetic: The site is Known for its attractive beach (as Lemaya beach), the wetlands of the Gulf of Gabès, from Sfax to Zarzis including the offshore islands, and the unusual seaside oasis (Gabès is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea). While the city is not that great, exploring the two parts of the oasis, the one between the city and the sea, and the one between the city and the desert, is fascinating. -Ecological: The oasis has some special particularities: a sandy soil which have been enrichment by years of traditional agriculture and natural fertilizers, enough suberranean water, great palm gardens farmed by human being, an special microclima that host a great variety of fauna and flora, etc... -Living heritage: The oasis is fed with a colective irrigation system that distribute the water from different fonts to a network of channels organized in crop terraces.

Intangible

  • Mythical
The main intangible values of ""Gabès Oasis Cultural Lanscape" are: -Mythical: An oasis could be considered (according to UNESCO) as an image of the garden of Eden. It is the practical expression of a mythical idea. -Social significance: Gabès enjoys a unique cultural heritage and a society rich in berber customs and traditions with social significance. The living heritage is composed of practices that are the result of slow, patient adaptation to the hostility of the environment and the scarcity of its resources. This oasis is also unique because is an unusual sea-oasis.
Universality:
Gabès Oasis is of outstanding value because is the only coastal oasis in the mediterranean sea and almost in the world. It conforms also a great agricultural landscape where date palms are mixed with other crops. Med-O-Med agrees the criteria described for the site in the Tentative List of UNESCO and has included others as follow : v) Gabes is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land-use, which is representative of its culture, and the human interaction with the environment. It is represented in the way of farming and irrigation. vii) The oasis is located in sites of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. x) The site contains important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
-Living heritage: the traditional way of farming and irrigation practiced in the oasis come from the Islamic culture. -Mythical values: oases could be considered as a picture of the garden of Eden, of islamic culture.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

Gabès Oasis Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Tunisia which is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5386/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.commune-gabes.gov.tn/fr/index.htm http://lexicorient.com/tunisia/gabes.htm http://sobretunez.com/2009/10/25/gabes-oasis-del-desierto-al-mar/ -Sidi Boumedine, R. (2003). The Sahara of cultures and people: Towards a strategy for the sustainable development of tourism in the Sahara, in the context of combating poverty. UNESCO, Paris. -Scott, D. A. (1994). Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East. ISBN: 2831702704. IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.