Secrets from the Sahara : Chott El Jerid “شط الجريد” : Lagoon of the land of Palms.
It was a good day, i thought of taking a walk, then i changed my mind and decided to run my car and go for a short trip. I don’t usually trust my car on trips because it’s kind of old and i have previous stories with it which i consider as adventures, and like they say “every cloud has a silver lining”.
My direction was the city of “Tozeur”, one hour driving from “Kébili”. I love to go to “Tozeur”, customs and traditions are almost the same like “Kébili”, but speaking about “Tozeur” as a touristic place, it’s more active than “Kébili”, the truth of course must be told. There will be some writings about that city.
Of course, i didn’t reach my destination. The car stopped in the middle of the road, not exactly in the middle of nowhere but fortunately in a place where cars and buses stop to rest. Generally that whole area is called “Chott El Jerid”.
The word “Chott” is the translation of the word “beach” or “lake of salt” (شاطئ).
The word “El Jerid” is what we call the leaves of the Palm trees or Dates trees.
Now you can relate the title “lagoon of the land of Palms”.
It was filled with sea water so long ago but now, the whole area is white. Why white? Simply because it’s now a place for the production of salt as an endorheic salt lake in the south of Tunisia.
In winter, after the rain, the view in this place is breathtaking.
A small 10 years old shack run by mr. Ali ben Salem ben Saiid, inherited from his father Salem ben Saiid is where i was. Ali said that this place is his family’s unique income, customers of course are passengers or basically tourists, and when we speak about tourists, we’re speaking about tourists who come from other countries because it’s rarely when locals buy local handcrafts. Moreover, most of his sells are to be taken as souvenirs such as sand flowers, small bottles filled with Desert sand and salt, mummys of scorpions and serpents, home made brecelets and necklaces, toys..etc
“Do you have any future vision for this place?”, i asked him. He replied :”i wish the hands of times turn back”.
As a passenger, when you visit this place you will feel some kind of freedom, you will love it, you may actually envy mr.Ali for being there most time of his day but..would we really envy him if we go deep inside of him?
A simple sentence might answer that question ; that small shack isn’t well equiped neither protected, no electricity so no light, no water, and network signal is real bad and almost do not exist.
He invited me for a cup of tea, we sat and talked, he was actually talking while i was in deep thoughts.
A touristic bus stopped, a group of people stepped out made me feel for a second that i was in China town. I went looking for someone from them who can speak english til i met mr. Thomas Lau, the only english speaker who informed me that they are coming from Hong Kong. That was the second visit of mr. Thomas to that place, he was here 7 years ago.
“Did u notice any changes around here?” I asked mr.Thomas, he answered :”nothing changed, same place, same people”
I also asked him about what he sees special in this place and he said :” it’s quiet”.
He was right. It was “quiet” as peaceful and calm, and it was “quiet” as sad and isolated.
“Chott el Jerid” was used as a filming location for the Star Wars series, among others. It was also described in Jules Verne’s last novel, “Invasion of the Sea”.
According to legends, it was there that the Greek goddess “Athena” was born.