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At first, a visitor to the Tunisian city of Matmata might not notice the houses dug below ground level, as the scene may seem to him at first glance as a vast oasis with extended sides.
the amazigh berber hystorical underground city
However, as soon as you get a little closer to the entrance to the city, which belongs to the state of Gabes, which is located 378 km south of the capital Tunis, the visitors will be shown the houses that were dug by the Berbers of North Africa, Tunisia centuries ago
And by the way, “Amazighs” are the original inhabitants of North Africa, extending from the Siwa oasis in western Egypt in the east, to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and from the Mediterranean in the north to the Sahara desert in the south, and they constitute the most genetic percentage to this day …
Berber houses in Matmata have become today a place of pilgrimage to tourists from Tunisia and all over the world, so their architecture, earthen walls and old doors attract them. Those houses, which Tunisians call “Al-Hosh Al-Hafri”, are still preserved in the style in which they were created, so that they are still the homes of about 5 thousand residents of this ancient city, which is estimated to be at least more than 400 years old.
the origins name of matmata
Matmata is the name of an ancient Berber tribe that could not resist the fighters of the “Banu Hilal” tribe at that time during their attack on the Berber tribes in North Africa, so its people migrated to this rugged region in southern Tunisia, and dug their homes in the interior, so that their enemies would not see them, and so that they adapt to the climate. These pits are wet in the summer and warm in the winter. This city is known for its mountainous nature and its cold climate, and most of its inhabitants are Berbers, and a number of them still speak the Amazigh language, or as the Tunisians call it “shalha”, in addition to the Arabic language.
Most of the inhabitants of this city left the pits and moved to live in stone and cement houses in the modern “Matmata”, but some of them are still settling in the pits, adhering to the history, customs, traditions and the Amazigh language.
The hospitality of the people of this region
Families that open their doors to tourists do not impose any financial compensation, as tourists can walk around the house and leave without paying any money. But most of those who visit the place, and notice the warmth of the family’s reception, put a sum of money in a container above a jar at the exit door.
Matmata is considered a beautiful and wonderful tourist area par excellence, especially for those who love nature and travel through time through these feats. The place is visited by about a thousand visitors a week in the winter season, especially in conjunction with the period of school and university holidays in Tunisia. According to local officials. Matmata is considered a place for tourists, who go to the city to enjoy its picturesque nature, distinguished by the houses dug under the ground. Even the existing residential hotels are a group of pits linked by a long tunnel.
The most famous of these hotels in Matmata :
the “stage” hotel, which dates back to 1961, and the “Sidi Idris” hotel, in which in 1970 a part of the famous American movie “Star Wars”, directed by George Lux was shot, which contributed to Increasing the city’s popularity, and hence the number of tourists coming to it again and again.