Wednesday, 27 June 2018


Tamezret is a traditional Berber village ( Isabel Putinja )
The revival of Tunisia's traditional heritage is creating new opportunities for cultural tourism, says Isabel Putinja.

I didn't expect the sky to be white. There's a sandstorm in the Saharaand I'm at its gateway: a windy hilltop overlooking the arid landscape of the Dahar mountain chain in South Tunisia. Gigantic letters perched on the rocky outcrop I'm standing on spell out MATMATA. 

Matmata is best known for its underground troglodyte houses where the first Star Wars film was shot in 1976. Hotel Sidi Driss is still the main tourist attraction here - a few remains of the original film set are on display in this cavernous underground hotel dug out of the limestone rock. The robot-like structures made of wood, and caves with painted ceilings, are still here 40 years on, while photos of George Lucas, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford tacked onto the walls have become a permanent tribute to this epic sci-fi film. Fans can even spend the night in the stark rooms and pretend they're in a galaxy far, far away.

While screen tourism is still a magnet for visitors to this mountainous region in Tunisia's south, the culture and heritage of its indigenous Berber people, the original inhabitants of North Africa, have only recently stepped into the spotlight. Interest in the Berber culture has emerged since Tunisia's 2011 revolution when protesters ousted the 23-year-long dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, sparking the Arab Spring. Since then, Berber heritage has been experiencing a revival of sorts. After decades of having their language and culture ignored and suppressed under the idea that a united nation is a homogeneous one, the Berber people have found a new sense of freedom to affirm their identity. 

Bu Isabel Putinja.
Full story at Independent.

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