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Ksar Ouled Soltane, Tataouine Governorate (TA: Wilāyat Taṭāwīn; FR: Gouvernorat de Tataouine), Tunisia. February 2024.

The structure that typifies Berber architecture is the ksar (plural ksour), the traditional fortified granaries built by the tribes of southern Tunisia. Its design priority is to preserve and protect the grain crops produced in good seasons. Ksour were usually built on natural defensive hill-top positions. A single ksar consists of many ghorfas (long, narrow, barrel-vaulted rooms built of stone and gypsum and finished with a mud render). The ghorfas themselves were like caves, with a single small door opening onto a courtyard. The very low humidity of this arid region, combined with the cool conditions inside the ghorfas, meant that grain could be kept for years without deteriorating. The storage areas were sealed with doors made of palm trunks and warded off insects, thieves and inclement weather alike. Sometimes a caretaker, often a local religious figure, regulated how much could be taken by the owners during times of scarcity.

The fortified Berber village of Ksar Ouled Soltane lies 22 km southeast of Tataouine, and it has one of the best set of ghorfas, rising up to four floors around two courtyards. The older courtyard dates from the 15th century while the newer, lower one was built in 1881. The ksar has been inhabited by the Ouled Chehida tribesmen in between their regular migration to pasture lands to tend their sheep, goats and camels.

The larger lower courtyard is used as a stage for performances during the Festival of the Ksour in late November. When I visited in February 2024, many rooms contained trash.

Sources: Eyewitness Tunisia (2015),
Lonely Planet Tunisia (2007).

Categories & Keywords
Category:Travel and Places
Subcategory:Africa
Subcategory Detail:Tunisia
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