Tozeur oasis, TUNISIA
- Keywords: Tunisia, Cultural Lanscape, Tozeur oasis, chotts, salty lakes, El-Djerid, El Fedjadj, Al-Rharsah, Dghoumes National Park, Marabout of Sidi Bou Lifa, Marabout of Sidi Aguili, Bled el-Haddar, Ouled el-Hadef, El Farkous Mosque.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
Chott El Jerid is in the Tentative List of UNESCO, with date of submission: 28/05/2008, criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x), category: natural, and ref.: 5385 Dghoumes National Park is close to the chotts. It is famous because of the presence of rose flamingos in nesting periods, and it has been classified as a BirdLife International Area (ZICOJBA, site TN 035) comprised in a RAMSAR site. The Chott El Djerid, El Fedjadj and Al Rhasah are recorded in the “Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East” (IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR, 1994), under the names “The Chott Djerid & Chott El Fedjadj Complex” and ” Chott El Rharsa”.
- Tentative List of UNESCO
- Protection Figures
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
The Cultural Landscape of Tozeur oasis and El-Djerid, El Fedjadj and Al-Rharsah chotts is partially recorded by UNESCO (“Chott El Jerid”) and IUCN (The Chott El Djerid, El Fedjadj and Al Rhasah), in both case because of their natural values. Med-O-Med has included, in this landscape, the oasis of Tozeur, composing, together with the lakes, an unique Cultural Landscape that shows an good sample of interaction between human being and nature, composing a living continuing landscape illustrated by especific agricultural and irrigation systems. So, 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: Tozeur oasis is located to the south of Tunisia’s steppe region in the jarīd (palm) country. It displays a colourful landscape marked by numerous chott (salty lakes) depressions and palm groves. The town is situated on the isthmus that separates the Chotts of El-Djerid, Chott El- Fedjadj, and Al-Rharsah, and it is referred to as the gate of the desert. Chott Djerid and Chott el Fedjadj Complex are large endorheic salt lakes. These two chotts are continuous, stretching 193 km from east to west, approaching to within 21 km of the sea. South of Chott el Djerid, the Grand Erg Oriental desert begins. Chott el Rharsa is the smallest and most westerly of the three great chotts of Tunisia, extends into Tunisia from Algeria. Close to the chotts is the Dghoumes National Park, famous because of the presence of rose flamingos in nesting periods (BirdLife International Area). The oasis of Tozeur contains some 400,000 date-palms, which provide shade for fruit trees (peaches, apricots, pomegranates, figs, citrus fruits and bananas) and other crops that get the water from 200 springs. Around the city, nature is far from flat, and tiny valleys and riverbeds are found all over. Between the palms that are penetrating the city from all sides, a complicated irrigation system is found, together with plants and trees, that gives plums, grapes and strawberries. -Its Cultural Heritage Components: Houses of Tozeur are decorated with rectangular yellow bricks arranged in patterns. The result is one of the most distinct and beautiful architectural styles of Tunisia. Ouled el-Hadef clearly has one of the most impressive desert quarters in Tunisia. The entire oasis is about 11 sq km, with Tozeur as the large centre, but there are small settlements scattered around the area. In the village of Bled el-Haddar it is interesting the mosque, where the minaret is built on Roman foundations. The Marabout of Sidi Bou Lifa must be among Tunisia’s most beautiful marabout. Sidi Bou Lifa is said to have planted the jujube tree which stands in front of his tomb by his own hands. There is nothing special, historical or religiously, about the Marabout of Sidi Aguili, but its setting is ideal, right where where a water canal enters the oasis gardens, and with plenty of flower bushes in front. It is among the most popular postcard motifs from Tozeur. El Farkous Mosque, that is a rather new mosque, but has the highest minaret in Tozeur, and is today one of the most noted buildings in Tozeur. The Weird Belvedere belongs to the early stage of tourist development of Tozeur, and the result is almost is fascinating. An unknown local artist with has been let lose this sculpture on a large boulder.
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Tozeur, Jarīd, Chott El Djerid or El Jerid, El Fedjadj, Al Rhasah, El Rharsa.
- Current denomination Tozeur, Jarīd, Chott El Djerid or El Jerid, El Fedjadj, Al Rhasah, El Rharsa.
- Original denomination Tozeur (Latin: Thusuros), Chott el Djerid (Arabic: شط الجريد), El Fedjadj, Al Rhasah, El Rharsa.
- Popular denomination Tozeur, Chott el Djerid (Arabic: شط الجريد), El Fedjadj, Al Rhasah, El Rharsa.
- Address: Tozeur oasis is in west-central Tunisia. It is located to the south of Tunisia’s steppe region in the jarīd (palm) country, Tozeur Governorate. The town is situated on the isthmus that separates the Chotts of El-Djerid, Chott El- Fedjadj, and Al-Rharsah, and it is referred to as the gate of the desert.
- Geographical coordinates: -Tozeur: 33°55′N 8°8′E -The Chott Djerid & Chott El Fedjadj Complex: 33°18 '-34°03 'N/7°45 '-9°50'E, altitude: 15-38 m asl -The Chott El Rharsa: 34°00 ' -34°11 'N/7°38 '-8°07'E, altitude: below sea level (-23 m lowest point).
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: Chott Djerid and Chott el Fedjadj Complex are large endorheic salt lakes in southern Tunisia (Tozeur: 5 km NW, Gabes: 115 km E).These two chotts are continuous, stretching 193 km from east to west (495 000 ha), approaching to within 21 km of the sea. South of Chott el Djerid, the Grand Erg Oriental desert begins. Chott el Rharsa (Tozeur: 10 km SE) is the smallest (42 000 ha) and most westerly of the three great chotts of Tunisia, extends into Tunisia from Algeria.
- Access and transport facilities: -Tozeur city, and Tozeur oasis: The city is served by buses, taxis, railway, louage (shared or group taxi), and Tozeur – Nefta International Airport with national and international services from London, Paris, Rome and few other European countries (international flight services are mostly during the summer tourism season). The city has plenty of car rental agencies (AVIS, HERTZ, etc...) where one can rent a car without prior reservation. Visitors are advised to plan ahead especially during the peak tourism season (Summer and Fall) Within the city limits, there is a reasonable taxi service (24 hrs a day) that is priced reasonably. Taxis can take you anywhere if you do not feel like walking. Good connections with shared taxis or buses in directions of Nefta, Gafsa (and beyond) and Kebili/Gabes. -The Chott El Djerid: It can be crossed by foot and even by car, but this is very dangerous since the salt crust is not always firm. During winter, when the lake is full, it can be crossed by boat. Piles of salt at its edges are collected for salt production processing.
Tozeur city is an important tourist destination, and this is reflected in the selection of hotels and camping grounds. There are 3 camping grounds. Tozeur has many good value restaurants.
Tourism activity of Tozeur is more lively in the fall and winter months with Douz Festival among others in late December. Depending on your taste, it can be argued that the Dar Cherait Museum is one of the best in Tunisia. Since it is private it has a higher entrance fee than most other museums, 3TD plus 1.5TD for camera permit. It has exhibitions depicting life among both ordinary and the rich in times no bygone. Instead of the normal bus driver uniforms, the personnel here wears traditional costume, and whenever you find a corner without other visitors, you can imagine what Tunisia a hundred years ago was li
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Tunisian Government.
- Body responsible for the maintenance: Tunisian Government.
- Legal protection: Chott El Djerid is unprotected (IUCN, 1994), but it has been suggested that the northern portion of the chott must be included in a proposed National Park. Land ownership in Tozeur is still based on traditional and rather antiquated concepts and structures. Most of the land in the oasis belongs to no more than 60 families, who account for under 2% of the population, and the Zaouia Tidjaniya, a wealthy and influential religious brotherhood found throughout the Maghreb. Only 8% of the land belongs to smallholders who work their own land and usually own no more than 50 palms. The large landowners - many of them merchants or nomads, who are traditionally disinclined to work on the land - and religious brotherhoods own more than 1,000 palms apiece, and their land is worked by share-croppers (khammes), who retain between a 10th and a third (depending on the crop) of the harvest. The name khammes comes from khamsa ("five"), the croppers' average or traditional share being one-fifth. This pattern of land ownership and employment developed over the centuries when the caravan routes fell out of use and oasis farming remained the only means of subsistence. The wealthier landowners bought up the impoverished smallholders' water rights, cut off their water supply and finally acquired their land, and the dispossessed peasants were then compelled to become their tenants. The share of the harvest they receive is sufficient only to meet the most basic requirements of subsistence.
- Public or private organizations working in the site: The government initiated two large scale projects: -Abandonment of the traditional irrigation canals. Tozeur's oasis has been irrigated based on an open surface canal system designed in the 13th century by the famous engineer Ibn Chabbat. This traditional irrigation system is currently being replaced by an 'eyesore' system of concrete pipes. Moreover, water, that was traditionally free to farmers, is now being sold to offset the cost of these projects and pipes. It is important to note here, that the traditional system of irrigation canals supported a delicate ecological system of endemic fishes and small animals, most of them either gone now or severely endangered with no protection. -The second part of these local projects is the initiation of new (young) oases around town. Very poor planning, corruption, and disregard to local traditions meant a futile effort at best. These oases' productivity is very low and their future highly unstable.
The history of Tozeur goes back a couple thousand years. Through most of its history has been autonomous, and beyond the direct control of Tunisian rulers. With the arrival of the French protectorate, no place in the country resisted new lifestyles and education more than Tozeur.
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Rural
- Geography: Desert Lake
- Site topography: Natural
- Climate and environmental conditions: Precipitation decreases inland, away from the coast, while temperatures increase. Mean annual precipitation is only 185 mm at Gabes and just 96 mm at Kebili (33°39'N/8°59'E), despite which rainfall over the chotts may be intense. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures of the warmest month (July) are 32°C and 22°C at Gabes and 42°C and 22°C at Tozeur (33°55'N/8°07'E), while the corresponding figures for the coldest month (January) are 16°C and 6°C at Gabes and 15°C and 4°C at Tozeur. The average potential evaporation over the chotts is 2500 mm or greater.
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: -Chott Djerid & Chott El Fedjadj Complex: These two chotts are continuous, stretching 193 km from east to west, approaching to within 21 km of the sea. A few kilometres north of the complex the land surface rises steeply to a long ridge of hills comprising the Djebel Mona, Djebel el Asjker, Djebel Sif el Laham, Djebel Lefaa, and Djebel Hadifa ranges which reach an altitude of 285 m asl at the eastern end. Ten kilometres south of Chott el Fedjadj is the Djebel Tebaga range which rises to 469 m, but by contrast, to the south of Chott Djerid, the land grades gently upwards to the 100 m contour situated some 35 km distant on the edge of the desert. The floor of the two chotts has a minimum altitude of 15 m asl and comprises barren clay and gypsum. The bottom of Chott el Djerid is located between 10 and 25 meters above sea level. Roughly in the shape of a tadpole, with a width of 20 km (12 mi) at its narrowest point, it reaches 250 km (160 mi) in overall length. At times, parts of it appear in various shades of white, green and purple. -Chott Al-Rharsah: This, the smallest and most westerly of the three great chotts of Tunisia, extends into Tunisia from Algeria. Its perimeter lies inside and below the 0 m contour, and its greatest depression is 23 m below sea level towards the eastern end. The surrounding country is arid and the margins of the chott are salt encrusted.
The southwestern ‘shore’ carries a wide belt of halophytic vegetation, but elsewhere the strip of fringe vegetation is narrower. The vegetation is dominated by: Periploca laevigata, Rhus tripartitum and Retama retam. Also Salicomia arabica, Halocnemum, Arthrocnemum indicum, and Atriplex sp.
Brine pools occasionally develop a deep purple colour due to blooms of purple bacteria, and cyano-bacteria occur under salt crusts and at the saline spring of El Mensof in the chott. Artemia is present in the chotts, but is uncommon. The chotts proper are devoid of amphibians, reptiles and mammals, but are of some importance to birds. Chlamydotis undulata has been recorded on the fringes and Phoenicopterus ruber nests at the edges in some years. By contrast much more diverse floras and faunas are found in the beds of the oueds that feed the chotts and in the springs around the margins. The crustacean Thermosbaena mirabilis lives in the hot springs at El Hamma, some of which have water temperatures as high as 51°C. Cyano-bacteria and diatoms live in all hot springs, being replaced where the waters cool, by Characeae, and in more saline waters by Enteromorpha sp. and Ruppia spiralis. Scirpus littoralis and Zannichellia palustris are found on the fringes of streams and pools and stands of Typha capensis occur in swampy places. The invertebrate fauna is quite rich. Bulinus spp. are present (but molluscicides are widely used and have reduced the bilharzia problem greatly). Several species of fish live in the oases, including Aphanius fasciatus, Barbus antinorii, Haplochromis desfontainesi and Hemichromis binzaculatus. Gambusia affinis has been introduced to control mosquitoes at several sites. Bufo viridis and Rana ridibunda are abundant, and Mauremys caspica occurs in the Oued Gabes if not in Chott Fedjadj. Rodents, two species of Felis, and many birds are also found at the oases. The area is famous also because of the flamingo nesting. The fauna of Dghoumes National Park, not long to the chotts, is mainly characterized by: Pterocles senegallus, Alaemon alaudipes, Ammomanes deserti, Scotocerca inquieta, Oenanthe sp.
Land uses and economical activities:Although still the largest part of the local economy, dates and farming are becoming less appealing to the young, preferring the 'fun' and unstable business of tourism and contact with westerners. Tourism is heavily developed and promoted, and Tozeur is considered a center of "desert tourism". This becomes very evident if one visits the city during the "International Festival of Oases". The overall region, not only Tozeur, is seeing a large influx of unemployed workers and their families (some of them native to the Tozeur area, but migrated in search of jobs decades earlier), that are migrating from the once rich Phosphate region of Metlaoui, Gafsa, Oum Lerrayess, etc... in hope of work in the Tourism sector. The phosphate mines are no longer productive and the government opted to sell them to European investors, who chose to let go of thousands of workers as the first step to rehabilitating them. Unfortunately this influx caused problems to Tozeur, where the unemployment rate and crimes skyrocketed. Tozeur is very much a city relying on tourism, but everything is done in a tasteful manner. Early developers understood that it was the traditions and culture that represented the possibilities for the future. While agriculture remains an important income, tourism employs a large part of the 40,000 inhabitants. But it is not only the lifestyle and the specific architecture of Tozeur, that bring tourists out here. The city is well situated at the fringe of the seasonal large lake Chott el Jerid, allowing visits into the Sahara, as well as to many other smaller settlements.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:The oasis of Tozeur, an intensively cultivated area of some 1,050 hectares/2,600 acres, lies immediately south of the town. It contains some 400,000 date-palms, which provide shade for fruit trees (peaches, apricots, pomegranates, figs, citrus fruits and bananas). Ground crops such as vegetables, salad plants and corn, which consume a great deal of water, are only occasionally found. The palms yield between 25,000 and 30,000 tons of dates annually, including only 1000 tons of the top quality deglat en nour dates - particularly aromatic, semi-sweet and not too soft - which grow only at the tips of palms in good soils well supplied with water.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
Tozeur oasis displays a colourful landscape marked by numerous chott (salty lakes) depressions and palm groves: Chotts of El-Djerid, Chott El- Fedjadj, and Al-Rharsah. Close to the chotts is the Dghoumes National Park, famous because of the presence of rose flamingos in nesting periods. The oasis of Tozeur contains some 400,000 date-palms, which provide shade for fruit trees (peaches, apricots, pomegranates, figs, citrus fruits and bananas) and other crops that get the water from 200 springs. Around the city, nature is far from flat, and tiny valleys and riverbeds are found all over. Between the palms that are penetrating the city from all sides, a complicated irrigation system is found, together with plants and trees, that gives plums, grapes and strawberries. The entire oasis is about 11 sq km, with Tozeur as the large centre, but there are small settlements scattered around the area, and some monuments with architectonical interest.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
Architectonical elements /Sculptures:
Tozeur, in common with the surrounding Jerid region, is noted for its yellow/brownish brickwork as well as its fascinating patterns in simple and rich geometric designs form the façades of most buildings in the old city and the new tourist zone. Houses of Tozeur are decorated with rectangular yellow bricks arranged in patterns. The result is one of the most distinct and beautiful architectural styles of Tunisia. What is even better, is that all new houses implement the same style. If you see a construction site, you will see that load-bearing walls are made in common concrete, and the yellow bricks are added just as decoration. Ouled el-Hadef clearly has one of the most impressive desert quarters in Tunisia. This area is almost unchanged over the centuries, and some of the houses are from the 14th century. The house and decoration style is even older. Most houses are two storeys, and there are fairly few with houses towards the street. When they do have windows, they are made of mashrabiyya (small palm pieces put together in intricate patterns), which lets some light in, and casts decorative shadows on the inner walls. Light is commonly let into rooms from inner courtyards, all in correspondence with a very conservative view of women and family life.
Art pieces, artesany, furniture and other elements:
Tozeur is one of the best places in Tunisia to go door spotting. Styles vary a lot, and many doors are unique to this part of the country. Note the 2 or 3 door knockers. The number reflects the family structure, but explanations vary. One says that the third knockers is added to the door when the family has its first child, or its first son. The other explanation says that the right knocker is for the men of the house, the left for the women and the lower for the children. According to this explanation, each knocker gives a different sound, the male knocker the deepest. There is a small museum in the area, the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions which is actually a holy man’s mansion.
In the case of gardens: original and current style:-"Paradise" zoo and gardens: The zoo and garden out here, past the Marabout of Sidi Bou Lifa are well-maintained with trees and flowers of all kinds The zoo is small, but has a few interesting animals, like baboons, lions, boars, snakes and a cola-drinking camel.
Man-made elements related to water management:
Domestic, industrial ensembles, energy related systems:
In older times, Tozeur had a very strict system of sharing water between plantations. In modern times, water pumps have made it possible with more intense agriculture. The sad result so far is a fall of the water table.
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
There are some prehistorical sites of archaeological interest in Kebili region, near to Djerid, as the remains of the ancient roman fort and wall, built to be protected from the berber tribes.
- Historical routes:
Tozeur was an important Numidian town on the ancient caravan route between Vescra (modern Biskra, in Algeria) and Tacapae.
- Traces in the environment of human activity: Ancient fort. Palm groves.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Population, ethnic groups: Berber
- Languages and dialects: Arabic, Berber
- Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: This almost metropolitan city has surprisingly many bicycles,- very rare in Tunisia, and quite a number of women in black veils covering everything. Note the use of white and black ribbons on their cloaks, blue is married, white is unmarried.
Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:The chotts proper are unmanaged. The oases around them have long been exploited for date production and horticulture. Tourism is increasing rapidly, and large centres of population have developed at several oases, e.g. Tozeur. There are problems with sewage disposal, and much swampland around the oases, which previously supported stands of Typha, has been reclaimed. The area included in the Dghoumes National Park is relatively well preserved.
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:
-The Chotts: El-Djerid, El Fedjadj and Al-Rharsah. -Dghoumes National Park. -The oasis of Tozeur and other settlements which are in its surrouindings. -The main monuments and archaeological remains of the site.
- Living heritage
Universality:Med-O-Med agrees the UNESCO criteria (vii, viii, ix, x) defined in the Tentative List, and includes the criteria (iv, v): iv) Houses of Tozeur are decorated with rectangular yellow bricks arranged in patterns. The result is one of the most distinct and beautiful architectural styles of Tunisia. Ouled el-Hadef clearly has one of the most impressive desert quarters in Tunisia. v) Tozeur oasis and its surrounding settlements are an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land-use, which is representative of berber culture. It is represented in the way of farming and irrigation. vii) The natural area contained in this Cultural Landscape, including the chotts and the National Park, is of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. viii) The chotts are outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features. There are Neolithic fossils. ix) The area is also an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals. x) Finally, the site contains the most 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:The architectonical style of Tozeur, houses, doors, etc, is typical of the islamic culture. The same happen with the way of farming and the irrigation system.
Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):
The Cultural Landscape of Tozeur oasis and El-Djerid, El Fedjadj and Al-Rharsah chotts is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Tunisia which is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5385/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.lexicorient.com/tunisia/tozeur.htm http://www.desertia.es/sobre-tunez/pueblos-y-ciudades-de-tunez/139-tozeur.html http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/584547/Tozeur http://www.planetware.com/tozeur/the-oasis-tun-to-too.htm http://www.saharaconservation.org/IMG/pdf/Reintroduction_oryx_Dghoumes_NP_Tunisia.pdf -Gilbert, T et al. (2008). The reintroduction of scimitar-horned oryx. Oryx dammah to Dghoumes National Park, Tunisia. Report to members of the European Endangered Species Programme for scimitar-horned oryx. Marwell Preservation Trust -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.