A Weekend at Djerba

Written by Finn Quigley, (Student Correspondent) Harvard University CET Tunisia, Summer 2015

A couple of weekends ago, all the students were invited to stay at one of our language partner’s houses. Moez and his mother were very generous, feeding us wonderful food and showing us around Djerba.

Djerba is a small island off the coast of southern Tunisia, about an hour’s flight from the capital. It’s often sold as a tourist destination, and there are tourists in spades. However, I was most excited about the beach and Djerbahood.

The beach was lovely. We went to one of the tourist beaches where Moez’s mom used to work and sat underneath a cabana, eating and drinking the days away. Which is a big deal, by the way, because it’s Ramadan now, which means most restaurants and cafes are closed now.

Djerba Beach.

Djerba Beach.

There was a small outcropping of rock that some of us climbed over and explored, and on Saturday they played Christmas music. It was nice to get away from it all, even if it was only for a weekend.

Djerbahood was the other reason I wanted to go to the island. What is it, you ask? Good question. A couple years ago, artists from all over the world began painting the homes of a small town in Djerba. It was not an officially sanctioned project. Rather, the artists organized together, asked the owners of the homes if they could use the houses as canvases, and proceeded to paint.

Djerbahood.

Djerbahood.

It’s really quite alluring and surreal. There’s a subtle beauty to the neighborhood itself, but the graffiti creates this otherworldly sensation. You can’t quite place where you are, exactly. A neighborhood? A museum? An old town at the end of its rope, or a community embracing art in one of its more vilified forms? The result is impressive, enough so that I almost forgot the heat while we walked around. Yeah, that impressive.