Who: Découvrire Tataouine and Walden Viaggi a piedi
The 10 women of Ourgen, 7 of Tielet and all the other women in the villages, are involved in responsible tourism.
Neolithic men, Romans, Arabs and Berbers have long left their footprints here, way before those of tourists’ sneakers. Nowadays, whoever ascends the stairs leading to the hotel excavated into the rocks, at sunset, after their first day of trekking through deserts and stony villages in southern Tunisia, must be prepared to dive into a world of cut-out architecture, ruins, underground mosques, forts, granaries, trails of red sand and picnics under olive trees.
In order to discover the troglodyte villages of Tataouine, Douiret, Chenini, Ksar Ayat, Ras el Oued, during the 10 days tour organized with Walden Viaggi a piedi, there are daily treks of four to five hours with shepherds, dinners with families, accommodations in maison d’hotes and in fascinating cave dwellings.
Nights under the stars, in the oases and amongst the sand dunes are unforgettable: the camps here are prepared by the nearby villagers, who put up the tents, stoke the fires, cook and tell ancient stories and legends to the modern travelers.
The real protagonists of local life here, the women, look after the gourmet aspect and charm of the trip. At the restaurant just a stone’s throw away from the famous Ksar Ouled Sultane, Fethi and her cooks prepare cous cous, Tunisian brick puff pastry, tomato Mechouia, Gazelle Horns (a sweet delicacy from this region)
Other women manage small hotels, such as Kenza (www.kenza-chenini.com/) or Gite Douiret (www.gitedouiret.com/).
Local artists and craftsmen warmly welcome guests into their cooperatives and workshops. Guests are welcome to take part in festivals and to prepare bread. They can admire and acquire carpets, bags, kilim rugs, herbal infusions, soaps, herbal creams and olive oil.
In Douiret, the tour guide’s daughter prepares legendary picnics for groups ready to head off.
In the area of Tielet, women produce bags and baskets from dried leaves from the oases.
In Tataouine, Aisha has returned to her hometown with her Maison d’Hote project named Farm Hospitality: agriculture, animals, rooms and cooking, all locally sourced.
In Ras el Oued, in an isolated village where the men have relocated to Tunis in search of work, Meriam has created Ourgen, a women’s association, a fine example, a solution and an appreciation for the daily activities of women. Without doubt, one of the most unforgettable experiences of the trip is the day spent with these ladies, discovering gastronomy, textiles and ancient medicine.
Twelve young women and men took their first steps into this paradise for hikers and archeologists (latest discovery being that of a dinosaur), with their project in cooperation with the University of Bologna Titan (Tataouine-Italia-Turismo-Agricoltura-Network). Today, with the young managers of Découvrir Tataouine, every group of tourists is accompanied by a trilingual guide and a local escort, enjoying cultural or naturalistic tours that involve the community.
The most active are Selma and Ashem. They struggle through bureaucracy to open a travel agency. Together with the local Bureau and the Ministry of Tourism they are trying to expand the network. They want to bring their experience to other regions. They are seeking funds for new tents to be used in the itineraries where accommodation is out in the open and they are also thinking of creating a bicycle tour.
Selma Makdmini is the face and soul of this part of the world. Here is her story of her personal revolution:
<<Women in the south and in small Tunisian villages are not very active. I felt a change in me during my training course, when I went to Italy for meetings with responsible tourism associations and when I went to the World Social Forum in Tunis. It felt like a real revolution for me. Initially, my parents were very worried. Now they encourage me. But the first night I slept away from home in a hotel, my father called me every minute and I cried. It’s already been two years now that I have been working as a guide and an organizer, amongst many new experiences. The institutions don’t understand our struggles and don’t help. There is so much bureaucracy. For example, it was difficult for me to get a visa to attend the International Tourism Fair in Milano.
But the work is very interesting and we steer the tourists to follow their passions: trekking, culture, sport, archeology and history.
There are many tour operators in Tunisia, but hardly any of them promote community-based tourism as we do!>>.
Association Découvrire Tataouine, Immeuble Fatma Zahra Av Hbib Bourguiba, Tataouine 3200