I have heard a lot about the famous underground city of Matmata which is famous for the troglodyte houses. Back in the early 70’s there were virtually no house above ground and all the locals lived in the troglodyte houses which are brilliant in a desert environment with huge swings in the temperature between day and night and summer and winter. During the steaming hot summers the troglodyte would stay relatively cold while they stay fairly warm during the cold winter nights. Hence in the days before air-condition this was pretty much the only way you could live in relative comfort in such an extreme climate.
Since the 1970s the air conditioner has made a breakthrough in southern Tunisia and the locals have given up on staying in their traditional houses. Instead they have moved to modern Matmata which is a boring group of houses which looks like something you build during the late 1970s without much in the department of individual style and character. But you’ll still see a few of the houses dug down in the landscape.
Taking care of the goats
Down in the old town you can visit a few of the underground buildings some of the easiest to visit are the underground hotels. You can stay there for a night if you like to. It is traditional hotels which do not have much when it comes to modern equipment like television and individual toilets and showers. The most visited of the hotels are not really the best of them - but it achieved world fame in 1977 when it was visited by none other than Luke Skywalker. The hotel was part of the original Star Wars movie and has kind of lived on its reputation till this day - attracting lots of visitors. But much to my surprise you cannot buy a Star Wars shirt or any other Star Wars memorabilia anywhere around the hotel.
Leaving the hotel I’ll drive along through the dry landscape just stopping to take a couple of pictures of the Hollywood - ups Matmata sign - at the outskirt of the city. Driving through the country you’ll pass illegal gas stations at the side of the road selling petrol they have bought in Libya for about five percent of the price in Tunisia. The petrol is stored in plastic bottles next to the road. Another feature of the roadside in Tunisia is the local eateries served lamb and goat. The goat and lambs are hanging down from the rooftops with a grill outside so the local truck drivers can stop for a quick bite on their journey across North Africa.
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