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Spices in Gabes, Southern Tunisia

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Gabes is famous for its spices, henna and straw baskets. Many of these items can be found in the souq in Old Jara. See below for more information about Gabes.
Spices, Gabes, Southern Tunisia

Spices, Gabes, Southern Tunisia

© Anouk Zijlma
Gabes is a pleasant town at the end of the railway line in Southern Tunisia. It's a busy port but the town is really centered around a huge Palmeraie, a veritable jungle of palm trees, and fruit trees, and home to flamingos at certain times of the year. Gabes is a friendly, laid back town, home to one of Tunisia's best universities. It's a good starting point for a trip into the desert, or to check out the troglodyte dwellings in Matmata and the Berber hilltop villages around Tatouine.

Most tour groups coming to and from Djerba stop briefly at the spice souq (market) in Jara, south of the Palmeraie, in the old part of town. Gabes is famous for its spices, henna and baskets. By late morning the busloads of package tours have moved on and you'll get the souqs to yourself.

Where to stay in Gabes
If you're a small group the best place to stay is Dar Ali Bey. A charming Dar (traditional house), beautifully decorated, with 3 large double rooms, a kitchen, bathroom and rooftop terrace. The house is perfectly located overlooking the spice market with banks, shops and restaurants around the corner. It is run by Isabelle Chine, who organized our fantastic trip through Southern Tunisia. She has lived in Gabes for over 20 years. Isabelle can be contacted at: daralibey@hotmail.com. She can also help you with information and tours in the region.

Hotels with less personality include the Hotel L'Oasis, and Chems, click here for reviews.

What to do in Gabes

  • The souq in Grand Jara offers a large variety of spices, henna, baskets and tourist trinkets. It used to be a major slave market. Bargaining is friendly here and more relaxed than the souqs of Djerba or Tunis.

  • The palmerai in Gabes is quite beautiful and you can take a caleche ride (horse drawn carriage) through the center of it. Stop at the open-air cafe to get a snack and check out some badly stuffed indigenous wildlife of the region.

  • There's a good beach in Gabes, that the locals know about, you'll likely be one of the few tourists there.

  • In the port, a restored sailing ship takes daily day trips out to Flamingo island for a swim in the Med and a picnic lunch.

Getting there and away
Gabes is the final stop on Tunisia's southern railway line which makes it easy and cheap to get to from Tunis, Sousse or Sfax. You can get a louage (shared taxi) to Djerba, the journey takes about two hours. Buses run regularly to Matmata, Douz, Touzeur, Sfax and Tunis.

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