“ Country: Tunisia / World Region: Africa „
Chebika is a small abandoned mountain oasis village in the West of Tunisia not too far from the Algerian border. It was abandoned in 1969 after severe rainfall caused many of the buildings to collapse.
Chebika was once a Roman outpost due to its strategic position called 'Ad Speculum' and the Arabic translation of the place translates to Castle of the sun or Qasr el-Shams. The Romans used mirrors as a means of communication to contact the camel trains that would pass nearby and to pass information forward about their progress. Being on the Southern edge of the Atlas Mountains rain water ran down forming a small oasis.
We were being driven in a massive comfortable six seater 4X4 off roader so the journey was quite pleasant racing along the plains before we started to climb up through the mountains to reach the start of the abandoned village. There are a couple of souvenir shops and hawkers who try to sell you bits and pieces of rose quartz and other souvenirs and also a large café.
A local guide helps guide you up through the village to reach the top of the mountain where there is a very small crevice you have to squeeze through to reach the other side. One of our group had particular problems getting through because of his size and although I am not skinny by any means I just managed to get through although this guy got wedge and needed a bit of a shove to get through the other side. First you have to walk down a slight hill to reach an over view of the small waterfall down below then and then down the other side where a small waterfall falls down into a small pond like lake. There are a few trees here and it is a bit precarious crossing a stream on wet and slippery logs placed to form a small bridge to get across. For people with mobility problems it is probably not a good idea to attempt to go up through the village and down the other side however there is a fairly good pathway from the café to reach the oasis and waterfall if you really wanted to see it.
In total we probably took two hours to walk up the mountain through the village admire the views and walk back from the waterfall to the café. It was quite warm although the wind got up while we were there and a small rain storm fell once we reached the summit which spoilt the visit for me because I hate the rain.
We also visited the mountain tiny villages of Tamerza and Mides in the mountains nearby the scenery is of a barren inhospitable landscape with a few oasis dotted here and there. Tamerza stretches out in front of you with a massive gully separating the village in two which has been formed by the flowing waters from the mountains. When we were there the gully was arid. It was very quiet but lovely to see local sheep herders tending their sheep and bringing them down from the surrounding mountains into the wide canyon below.
The tiny village of Mides is right by a tiny canyon that separates and forms a natural border between Tunisia and Algeria. The canyon is quite deep with approximately a 300 foot drop. Standing on the edge of the canyon it feels like you can actually touch the other side. It is like a crevice. You can walk along the bottom of the canyon which stretches for some miles. I would be rather concerned if I had kids with me as there are no safety rails and some of the small stones are loose which means it was quite slippery.
In total we had around four hours drive through the mountains before returning to our hotel for lunch. It was quite a pleasant drive and interesting to see the arid mountain scenery and the isolation and way of life of the Berber people who are living in the small villages. Don't expect to find many places to eat or drink although at one small place we managed to find some shops beside a small stream where we sat and had a coffee beside the flowing water.
So why should you visit Chebika? The mountain Oases for one. Yes a mountain Oases, until recently I thought there was only one type of Oases, the type that are in the middle of a desert. I now know of three types of Oases although there could be more, there's desert, mountain and marine. To go to the mountain Oases we hired a fourwheel drive vehicle with a driver, you'll see a lot of these speeding across the desert in this area. They seat six people and are airconditioned. I'm not sure of the price as I wasn't the one paying but most things in Tunisia are very reasonably priced. One word of warning, if you do rent one of these vehicles check it's tyres! We didn't notice until we'd been travelling in it for an hour or so and the tyres were as smooth as a babies bum. Saying this we were in a convoy with 4 other vehicles and the others were all fine. The best time to visit the mountain Oases is early morning, we went about 9am and even at this time, it was rather warm. So slap on some high factor sun cream, a hat and investing in a thin long sleeved cotton shirt is a good idea, it stops you burning in the sun and shivering in the airconditioning. We had a guide who led us down a path between the "mountains" (they really were more like rocky hills but in the flat surroundings I guess they pass as mountains. It starts with just a few palm trees along the side of the path and then opens out into a small clearing with more palm trees and a waterfall, which is actually a warm spring from which you can drink the water. Most people opted not to as it's very easy to get a stomach upset in Tunisia. At this point my camera came out and I got some lovely pictures. We then continued on up one of the mountains, not quite to the top, in fact we didn't go up that high really and they had built steps but in the heat it was very tiring but manageable. There was an elderly couple with us who had
a couple of stops on the way up but they made it, quite happliy. The view at the top certainly made up for the breathlessness on the way up. At the top you also look down on a Berber village which was ruined by floods in 1969. Again a great photo oppotunity. From there you could really see how barren the surrounding land was and how amazing it was that in the mist of it there were these fantastic palm trees. After this our driver then took us to see another ruined Berber village and made a couple of other short stops at places with excellent views. People generally give the driver a tip but we were told only to do so if we thought we'd received a good service, ie if the driver put the air conditioning on when asked. It was good to know this as when we first got in our vehicle the driver had his window down and the heat was awful. Chebika is not somewhere you'd stay for long, in fact most things can be seen in a couple of hours (preferably morning hours), so here are a few suggestions on other things to do while your there. Take a trip across the salt lake "Chotte El Jeird" the lake is actually dry but the sun shining on the salt is a very pleseant site and there are some small pools with different coloured water edges in solid masses of salt which almost looks like marble. Once at the other side of the lake (it only takes about an hour) head for Douz. At Douz you can visit the edge of the Sahara, you may want to wait until the evening and take a camel ride into the Sahara at sunset. We hired Ali baba style head dresses and long gowns, you'll find most people do. I know your thinking how tacky and touristy and didn't we all look stupid. Well actually yes but then it was also fun and believe me if the sand is blowning it hurts and the gowns protect you. Also they protect you from the sun and any flys that maybe around the camels so it's really a good idea. Also sunglasses are
a good idea to stop sand getting in your eyes. If your worried about the camels, don't be we saw some very scary camels at other places and they also didn't look too healthy but at Douz the camels all looked very well and were rather friendly. Mine let me stroke his head and was very calm about it. At Douz there is also a dessert Oases but I'm not sure that it is man made rather than natural and I personally thought the mountain Oases was far better. Another great attraction in this area is Matmata which is where they filmed Star Wars but I've written a whole seperate opinion on that one.