The troglodyte houses of Matmata Tunisia Travel Guide

The troglodyte houses

The troglodyte houses have been existing for millennia. This system has enabled inhabitants since Phoenician times to protect themselves from the recurrent severe heat waves that rage in the region. They are generally established around a large circular open-air well allowing daylight to be captured. The temperature rises from 15°C in winter to 25°C in summer. Some dwellings, like the Sidi Driss hotel, have several interior courtyards and a succession of rooms connected by corridors, on several levels. Sleeping in one of its homes is a unique experience! May the force be with you !
In the mountains of southern Tunisia, Matmata is a village of houses made in caves. Completely underground, the city still lives with more than two thousand people, who have decorated and preserved this ancient society in all its glory.
Matmata was created by digging into the stone hill and digging caves in the rock. Each house in the village was created by scratching the rock, little by little, until the houses were formed. Each cave, with its multiple rooms, has become an individual house, with these houses themselves united in an isolated community.
Suspended at an altitude of 600 m, the famous troglodyte dwellings of the Berber village of Matmata served as the setting for the “Star Wars”. Located south-east of Chott el Jerid, in the foothills of Djebel Dahar, the village of Matmata is forty kilometers south-west of Gabès. For fans of the “Star Wars” saga, know that it is the Sidi Driss hotel that served as the setting for the family home where Luke Skywalker, Beru and Owen Lars live, on the planet Tatooine. It must be said that its famous troglodyte dwellings dug into the sides of the mountain make it one of the high places of Tunisian tourism.

In this region of Djebel Dahar, dotted with palm trees and olive groves, this type of dwelling makes it possible to keep the interior cool during the summer heat waves and to resist the winds and cold of winter.
Despite the modernization and civilization experienced by the country since its independence, despite the construction of new towns and despite the fairly significant rural exodus, these dwellings have resisted and their occupants have insisted on remaining there either out of love for the land and the roots, or for lack of means to afford a new life.
Thus, many families of this Berber community have preferred to stay in these ancestral troglodyte dwellings.
These houses are made up of rooms measuring four to five meters deep by two meters high, carved directly into the rock. A corridor, called a skifa, provides access to a circular courtyard dug into the ground.
Social life takes place in this courtyard: the laundry is washed there, the dishes are washed, we eat there, we welcome visitors, we carry out commercial transactions, . In the courtyard emerge the ghorfas, cells used as attics.
Most of the inhabitants live from olive growing and tourism because Matmata became a popular destination after a ksar (set of ghorfas), rehabilitated into a hotel, was used in the 1970s as a setting in the famous Star Wars film. Indeed, since the release of the film, foreign tourists have flocked to discover these atypical residences.

The troglodyte houses in pictures

The troglodyte houses in video