Here, I am providing you with some unique and most exciting ways to experience Djerba like a local (And see a side you could never imagine).
I was born and raised in Tunis, but I am privileged to have Djerba, the island of dreams as they call it, a land that has long fascinated its visitors, as my parent’s hometown. As my extended family from my mother’s side is settled there, this gives me the ability to come visit anytime I want — This makes it a heavenly escape for me.
For family reason, I haven’t visited the island for about 3 years. I missed it a lot. I used to visit for at least once a year. This summer, I decided to go, so I had a long roadtrip from Tunis to Djerba – and back.
There’s little doubt that Djerba is one of the most interesting and unique islands in the Mediterranean, having quite high religious importance, historic and cultural richness, and demographic diversity, at least not all together.
Djerba has different faces, and the typical tourist experience in the island is not one which presents to the visitor the strong and unique ancient way of life which exists in the island.
‘Live Like a Local’ – Top Things To Do in Djerba
Well, want to experience Djerba like an in-the-know local? Find below the top ten experiences and things to do that I do recommend as someone who is originally from Djerba, if I can say so!
#1. Wandering in Sidi Jmour
As a family, whenever we come to Djerba, and if we want to go to the beach, the beach of Sidi Jmour is always our first choice. Sidi Jmour is very popular with other islanders, the beach is a bit isolated, quiet, spiritual and away from the tourist centres of Djerba. The sand here is white as snow and infinitely soft. The water invites you to linger and splash around in every imaginable shade of blue while the waves clap the shore with white foam crowns.
It is such a beautiful place with its incomparable charm and is a must for romantic moments. It always makes me dream. It is located just some 10 KMs from Houmt Souk. A Taxi from Houmt Souk would cost around 15 Tunisian dinars, roughly 6 dollars. But the beach of Sidi Jmour isn’t the only beautiful thing here – there’s much more to discover!
And hey, this location is also one of the Star Wars film sets in Tunisia, the famous Tosche Station from the Star Wars a new hope filmset. Luke Skywalker wanted to reach it to meet with his friends and to pick up some power converters. (As seen in the deleted scenes) Its a magic place of significant modern culture and history.
MOSQUE OF SIDI JMOUR
There are more than 360 small mosques on the island of Djerba – as many places of worship as the year has days. But there’s one on the western coast of the island that you shouldn’t miss on your visit to the island: the Sidi Jmour Mosque.
The best time to visit is in the late afternoon, as the setting sun makes this special place even more endearing. When the domes of the small, white fortress clinging to a rocky outcrop protrude into the glowing horizon, it results in unforgettable sunset scenes.
SIDI JMOUR IS A “MARABOUT”
A Marabout is a term used in Islamic culture to refer to a holy man. The first Marabouts also served in the military. They lived on promontories or on the sea and notified their followers in the occurrence of an enemy attack. Following their deaths, the building became their grave. Today, the Marabouts’ mausoleums serve as pilgrimage sites, where people come to meditate and pray, as with Sidi Jmour.
THE PILGRIMAGE “Ezyara” TO SIDI JMOUR
Originally, as the name of this annual pilgrimage indicates, this event was an annual celebration dedicated to the saint Sidi Jmour, and a cow was slaughtered as a sacrifice to seek the saint’s favor. Today, this festival is known as the “Festival Sidi Jmour.” One of the festival’s primary components is the religious rite that precedes the visit to the grave. At the “El Mkam,” worshippers light candles and present offerings.
SIDI JMOUR, ALSO A CAMPSITE
In summer times, especially throughout the months of July and August, locals go to Sidi Jmour and camp in the shade of eucalyptus trees, on the edge of the turquoise sea, and with their feet in the golden sands.
STREET FOOD IN SIDI JMOUR
Near the famous Sidi Jmour mosque, there is a series of cafés and restaurant, mostly frequented by locals in the summer. Families from all around Djerba, neighboring cities such as Zarzis and those who visit the island the summer go and have quality times by the beaches over there.
Very relaxed atmosphere, calm lovely place, far from the touristic areas of the island with fantastic, breathtaking and scenic views, and.. super tasty street food prepared with love using old family recipes and traditional ways!
When in Djerba, we visit Sidi Jmour often, usually to stay by the beach, enjoy the sunset, the calm atmosphere and the food served in these cafés/restaurants. The family loves all about Sidi Jmour, and so most of the locals here in Djerba.
The last time we visited Djerba, we went there a few times. Of the many adventures you can have, is to buy your fish from the local market or fishermen, bring and have it grilled by the restaurant. For as low as 3 dollars, the grilled fish will be served to you along with any side dish you may order.
One of the most famous dishes in Djerba, is Brik, it consists of thin pastry around a filling and is commonly deep fried. The best-known version is the egg brik, a whole egg in a triangular pastry pocket with chopped onion, harissa and parsley.
If you’re looking for a romantic setting, any of the available cafés/restaurants out there would be of a good fit, but I’d highly recommend to give a try to Le Petit Marin, friendly staff, wonderful food, a beautiful view and value for money.
The restaurant offers local specialties that are lovingly prepared by the mother of the owner.
#2. A Barbacue in Borj Jilij
Close to Sidi Jmour to the East – where some of Star Wars’ scenes have been shot – is Borj Jilij, where the most beautiful sunsets can be seen.
The quiet little port where traditional fishermen return home after catching octopus and fish is the most quiet and serene place, perfect for observing the beauty of this lovely Mediterranean island.
This is one of the spots that locals love. Besides fishing, people usually go there with friends/family to enjoy the serenity and the calm atmosphere. Borj Djilij makes it one of the best Barbecue beaches on the island. Like the locals say, there is nothing like a barbecue at sunset in Borj Jilij.
There are small beach cabins spread across Borj Jilij owned privately by fishermen. They are generally used as shelters from the sun or wind and for the safe storing of fishing equipment. These beach cabins usually incorporate simple facilities for preparing food and hot drinks by bottled gas. Locals love going there and have spend times with their loved ones, enjoying their times.
Beach cabins in Borj Jlij are privately owned, they are only given/rented for locals. You definitely have to know somebody, else, you will still be able to have your Barbecue by the beach.
This summer, we went there a couple of times. The first time, we planned and had a barbecue in a beach cabin, but the place is definitely about more than the food. We had a lovely family time!
The second time, Marwen and I had crossed a 1KM trip in the sea to reach an isolated islet called Edzira off the coast in Borj Jlij.
Sea level was below 1 meter so we were able to walk for about 15-20 minutes till we reached our destination.
Edzira is a peculiar almost surreal scenery. It has a combination of sandy and rocky beaches, with crystal-clear waters. We had a 1-hour swim then we went back to the main island.
As Borj Jilij is right behind the airport, and its runways, it is worth noting that this location makes it a great aircraft spotting place.
Watch out for: the pure serenity of a stunning sunset.
#3. A Picnic in Cheikh Yahya
Cheikh Yahya is a located between Sidi Jmour and Ajim. It is a quiet and charming place. Chikh Yahya is actually one of the islanders’ favorite places; the beach is kind of isolated, peaceful, and serene, and well away from the tourist districts of Djerba.
People usually go there to have picnics by the beach, barbecues, or just sit and talk!
#4. Buy Fish from Local Fishermen and/or Local Markets
The daily auctions at the fish market of Houmt Souk are such authentic ways to experience the island like a local. They take place late in the morning in the northeast corner of the Marché Central. Auctioneers command attention performing their bit of mercantile theatre siting on elevated thrones touting strings of fish handed to them by their helpers and fishermen.
The bidders range from restaurant owners to local women buying fish for the family. Fishing is Djerba’s second-biggest money earner and it can all get delightfully frenetic. Close by, the spice market and the fruit-and-vegetable market are more sedate but still worth a look. All the markets are open from sunrise to sunset.
For a more exciting experience, you may want to go to the beaches early in the morning and buy fish directly from fishermen. Fishermen are all across the island, but are mostly seen in more virgin beaches such as in Ajim, Sidi Jmour, Borj Jilij, Sidi Salem and Seguia.
#5. Have a Tour on a Small Fishing Boat
Traditional fishing methods are an important part of Djerba’s culture as well as economy.
During you time in Djerba, you may want to have such an exciting experience of having a tour on a small fishing boat. There are no organized finishing tours, you will need to get in touch with a fisherman or a local that can arrange this.
I had such tours a couple of times before. One time, the fisherman we went with, showed us their method of catching octopus in special clay jars, and how they catch fish using a series of walls made from palm branches in the shallow water.
#6. Hang at a Coffee Shop
If it’s one thing that locals in Djerba do really well, it’s coffee, and they aren’t afraid to tell you. Ask them how they take their coffee and they’ll likely tell you “strong.” But there are choices for everyone, whether you’re a milk cappuccino drinker or want to venture out and try a black Arabic/Turkish coffee.
There are cute trendy coffee shops and kiosks on practically every block and they are full at all hours of the day. However, if you’d like to live the experience like a local, you might want to go for a local coffeeshop, one that is situated far from the touristic centres.
Can you really be an authentic Djerbian if you don’t have your local coffee shop that you frequent? No, you can’t. There’s no better way to live like a local than by sitting at one of many coffee shops with the locals themselves. People watch, and befriend the waiters. This is one of the the best ways to get to know the island.
#7. Shop the Old-Fashioned Way
For shopping the old-fashioned way, the Streets of Houmt Souk and Midoun are the spots to hit. The downtown, medinas of Houmt Souk and Midoun are island’s most exclusive and traditional shopping areas. When you shop in Djerba, for many items, the price is negotiable.
You can shop and haggle like a local, and don’t give up until you’ve gotten yourself a good deal. You can walk away with some unique items and presents. It is popular with tourists and locals alike and offers souvenirs, produce, and endless food stands and small eateries selling local cuisine. Monday, Thursday in Houmt Souk and Friday in Midoun are the busiest and most chaotic days as there are some markets open in these specific days, but it’s also the most exciting and lively. It’s when you can really get a feel for life in Djerba.
For those in search of more exclusive Djerbian mementos, the ceramics and pottery shops in and around the village of Gallela are just the ticket, and the area is wonderful to just stroll around as well. Guellala is known as the village of potters. It is famous for its pottery, ceramic dinnerware and other clay products. There are some interesting souvenir and antique shops as well. The small village is also home to the famous Gallela Museum.
#8. Sunset from One of Djerba’s Most Remote Places.. Ajim
Ajim is Djerba’s third largest town. It is one of the most charming remote towns in the island. The array of authentic and unassuming buildings, shops and lively cafés make it a hidden treasure that simply must be explored.
During my last visit to Djerba, we went to the Coucher de Soleil café in Ajim — The views are breathtaking!
#9. Be a Beach Bum Like a Local
Djerba’s Mediterranean coasts stretch for kilometers. Clean, sandy beachfronts with nice weather almost all year round make it an awesome destination to take a break from work and hang for a week. The whole island is picturesque, very idyllic and relaxed.
Relax with a book on a lounge chair or sit at one of the many cafés and restaurants by the beaches to grab a drink or a bite to eat. Water sports are also plentiful. Do you like surfing, kayaking, kite surfing, windsurfing, or snorkeling? Or perhaps you’re more of the stand up paddle-boarding, water skiing, and scuba diving kind of person? Marine life in the island is a major attraction. As long as it’s it’s not too hot, you can find locals hanging out at the beach at all hours.
There are also plenty of virgin, wild beaches that you can go to and enjoy your time. Beaches such as Sidi Jmour, Borj Jilij, Cheikh Yahya, Ajim make it all a good and unique destinations to have a high quality family time, to perhaps pickup some fresh fish and seafood, and have a beach grill.
If you’re looking for a secret swimming spot, you may want to try Lella Hadhria beach. A hidden gem, known by the locals, with crystal clear water. It is advised to check with anyone from Djerba to take you there, or to carefully drive through the 2-KM rural path to reach the destination. Google Maps coordinates are available.
#10. Eat Brik Like a Local
Brik is central to Djerbian street food scene and to your social life. If you want to be social, you eat Brik. Locals grow up on the dish and it can be found on every street food restaurant in Djerba. It is delicious and filling if you opt for more than one Brik.
Be wary of asking locals where the best Brik can be found, you may spark up a heated debate. To really eat Brik in Djerba like a local, jump down at a street food joint and ask for your Brik.
Arguably the greatest Brik in Djerba can be found along in the coastal town of Sidi Jmour, the café and restaurants that are y the beach, offer the best Brik that is appreciated by locals.
If you’re in Houmt Souk, the island center, you may want to get your Brik from “Ghezaiel”, “BelQassem” or “Ishak”. These are some of the best in that area. Brik is a must-try when visiting Djerba; if you get spicy Briks, just make sure not to have plans afterwards.
Still Looking for More Things To Do in Djerba? Read on
Djerbahood. Such a wonderful neighborhood awaits you here! As beautiful as Sidi Bou Saïd. And so much art. Going there, you will find a wall painting wherever you turn. Don’t think, just go there. Inhale the atmosphere. A stroll in Djerbahood is all one needs to clear the mind and think better.
El Ghriba Synagogue. El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba is the oldest in Africa. It is a center for the island’s Jewish community and also an important site of pilgrimage for Jews from across North Africa & further afield during Lag B’Omer. Definitely a must-see site.
Houmt Souk. Houmt Souk is Djerba’s largest town, a calm cultural centre that serves as a peaceful meeting place for people of diverse religions and ethnic backgrounds. This mix is most apparent at the markets, where you can spend hours poring over locally created pottery, jewelry, leather products, textiles, and artwork, as well as fruits, vegetables, spices, and meats.
Ras Rmal (Flamingo Island). A small island off the coast of Djerba. It is an eco-reserve where thousands of flamingos flock together. The combination of the birds’ neon-pink color and the azure blue of the ocean is magical. From the prot of Houmt Souk you can take a boat to the island, snorkel and swim, go for a siesta in the available hammocks or just try the divinely fresh oysters and coquilles caught by the local fishermen.
Djerba Explore (Crocodile Farm). Interesting place for a wild adventure in Djerba. A thousand crocodiles on the farm. You can pass and see crocodile’s life from the crocodile’s egg through nursery. preschool, school till adult crocodiles.
Djerba by bike. If you’re visiting Djerba, you may consider exploring Djerba on bicycles. Djerba island is excellent for biking as it is flat and there are an abundance of good dirt paths. For instance, if you’re taking a good path that follows the coast, you would never be far from the deep blue water.
There are plenty of other interesting things to do and see in Djerba. You may want to discover other towns and villages such as Midoun, Aghir, Gallala. There are over 360 mosques in Djerba, you may want to explore some of them — truly authentic. A few churches and synagogues are also spread across the island. There’s also the ancient castle of Borj El Kebir, also known as Borj El Ghazi Mustapha in Houmt El Souk. It is the largest and best preserved local castle, and is one of the most visited historical sites on the island.
Marina, Golf, Casino, beach bars, quad biking, kayaking and more, Djerba can accommodate everything!
The Djerba Essentials
For more information on where to stay in Djerba, getting there and around, what to know before you go, and more, head out to this page: The Island of Djerba.
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