Discover Tunisia’s Berber Cities and Explore Berber Cultural Heritage

Discover Tunisia’s Berber Cities and Explore Berber Cultural Heritage

One of Tunisia’s most unique tourist attractionsespecially for Star Wars fans— is undoubtedly its Berber villages. These cultural gems were mostly forgotten until around 2011 when the country’s revolution brought Tunisia’s indigenous culture, heritage and traditions the spotlight they deserved.

The Berber culture in Tunisia not only has interesting architecture, but also its own language, called Tamazight, beautifully detailed handicrafts and a truly delicious cuisine.

Centuries-old Berber villages were initially built on fortified mountaintops or underground as a strategy to defend the Berber people from invaders. The ancient stone buildings have even been used to film the Tatooine part of Star Wars Episode I.

Many of the original dwellers of these towns have moved to more modern buildings. Consequently, many of the age-old buildings have been turned into museums or other tourist-oriented accommodations.

Make sure to read our article on Tunisia Internal Travel and Local Transport Options to find out how to get around from one Berber city to another.

Takrouna and Kesra, in Central Tunisia

Takrouna is just 90 kilometers, or roughly 56 miles away from Tunis, Tunisia’s capital city. Visiting this Berber village requires climbing a series of stairs to reach the top of the mountain it’s perched on, however, the panoramic view from there is absolutely worth the effort.

Kesra, on the other hand, is Tunisia’s highest Berber town, perched atop a rocky mountain. Getting there also requires climbing many flights of stairs and allows visitors to enjoy beautiful traditional pottery as well as Berber rugs.

Guellala, on Djerba Island

Guellala has only one Berber town, which is mainly known for its traditional pottery and beautiful bougainvillea peppered across its museum’s courtyard. Make sure to check out its exhibition which includes a vast collection of traditional tools and clothing as well as everyday objects used by indigenous people in the past.

Star Wars filming locations in Tunisia

Matmata, Tataouine and Ksar Ouled Soltane are all heavily related to Star Wars, either because they were used as a set to film different parts of the saga, or because they served as inspiration for other background elements. Tunisia, with its Berber cities, undoubtedly offers a unique immersive experience to Star Wars fans from around the world.

Matmata, Tamezret and Toujane

Matmata lies near the city of Gabes, close to the Sahara desert and the Dahar Mountains. It was used as a backdrop for Star Wars. Star Wars fans will surely enjoy visiting the Sidi Driss hotel, used as Luke Skywalker’s home, which still welcomes guests today. The hotel has multiple props used in the film as well as photographs of George Lucas, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford on display.

Matmata is known for its —still inhabited— Berber villages having the peculiarity of being built as troglodyte homes. These buildings were constructed within the mountain and are connected amongst each other by hidden passageways as well as open-air courtyards.

Tamezret, on the other hand is mostly uninhabited and its stone houses are crumbling. A series of interconnected tunnels once used for defense still lay on top of the hill this Berber town was built on. Make sure to visit the village’s Berber Museum, with a unique exhibit of traditional jewellery, clothing and wedding costumes.

Toujane is another Berber town worth visiting, where you can often spot Berber women weaving on their looms. Many of Toujane’s troglodyte homes are built underground and their doorways are no more than a pit in the ground.

More adventurous travelers will surely enjoy hiking along the rocky path up the ksar mountain nearby to get a breathtaking panoramic view of the Dahar mountains.

Ksar Ouled Soltane, Douiret and Chenini

Tataouine, Tunisia, located near the Sahara desert, inspired the name of Luke Skywalker’s home. Most of the Star Wars scenes, though, were shot in and around the Matmata Berber village. Tataouine’s bi-weekly traditional markets full of the village’s crafts are a colorful tourist attraction.

After Tataouine, Star Wars enthusiasts will surely enjoy visiting the nearby Berber village of Ksar Ouled Soltane where they will recognize its unique fortress-like antique building. This structure —used as the slave quarters that were Anakin Skywalker’s home in The Phantom Menace— rises four storeys high and its courtyards are interconnected by external stairways.

Douiret lies near Tatouine atop another mountaintop. This Berber village, comprised of stone buildings as well as troglodyte houses, is sadly, mostly in ruins. As many Berber cities, it lies right next to its modern counterpart, where its prior inhabitants now reside.

Chenini is another worthwhile tourist spot to explore. With its ancient fortress in ruins on a mountain top and its vaulted alcoves once used to store grains. Its terraces and fortified walls stand between its troglodyte buildings and glow beautifully at sunset.

Tunisia is a wonderful destination and offers an amazing experience with its stark contrast between its centuries-old Berber cities and its more modern ones perched right next to them. Whether Tunisia has long been on your bucket list or you just realized it can be your next vacation destination, make sure to check out what kind of tourist visa you need to visit the country, as well as the visa requirements.