Magebit Trips - Djerba
Guess what? Magebit is traveling again! It has been a while since me and my colleagues from Magebit last time went for a "working abroad trip". May 2019 seemed just the right time as warm weather was yet to arrive in Latvia, while the heat of the south was not at its peaks. But where to go? Luckily, there are a couple of crucial things we learned from our last trip. First, make sure there are no connecting flights on your itinerary - you rather want to spend time on foreign soil than eating sandwiches in airport cafes. Second, do your homework in exploring weather forecast, otherwise, you are not really changing the game. Third, make sure your accommodation is pleasant, it is going to be your shelter for a while. Last, make it different and pick a place where no one from the crew has ever traveled to. It all came down to Djerba, a Tunisian island on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.
It was a tough and early morning flight at 6 AM on Friday when it was time to leave. Upon arrival at Djerba, we were kindly met by our host Haytham and quickly brought to the place that was about to become our home for next week. While on the go we could already observe and smell a nice Tunisian prelude consisting of desert sands, palm trees and the Mediterranean Sea along the coasts. Also, local hits on a car radio. Yalla!
Exactly, just the way we wanted it to be during our stay abroad. That is what I first thought when we were brought to the villa. A nice swimming pool under the warm skies of Djerba. Cool off before you start your working day, cool off once you've finished. A nice bonus was a lovely backyard garden with palm trees, sun-beds, and a big dinner table to enjoy our mealtimes together.
Inside the house, it looked cozy as well. At our disposal, there was a modern kitchen with all we might need during our stay and a spacious living room with a large screen for some light night talks. As well, each of us had a separate bedroom with a double bed and a private exit to either a balcony or a swimming pool, depending on the floor. Top floor, or a rather a rooftop, had some space to enjoy the sun and the views of the island as well.
The weekend approached the next day after we arrived in Djerba. We knew that if we are about to leave the island to explore the continental part of Tunisia, we for sure are looking at doing this during the weekend, so we have all the time of the day available just for us. Luckily, on Saturday we were able to negotiate a trip for Sunday with local tour folks. This must have had included a drive around the Tataouine region and stops at salt lake, city of Tataouine and areas that served a filming ground of Star Wars.
First stop - salt lake. Actually, these natural formations are not really lakes, but expanses of mud covered by salt. This in some sense gives an impression of a real lake. Unfortunately, did not manage to get to the largest of this kind in Tunisia, which is Shat el Jerid, though still got a glimpse into salt lake lifestyle.
Second stop - Tataouine. This is charming, I agree (see below). Historically, this was a Berber (not Arab) village and the homes were made this way for coolness and protection. From the end of the 19th century till the middle of the 20th century governed by France, obviously, together with the rest of Tunisia. It was claimed that in 2015 became a base of some ISIS rebels, but fortunately, we could not confirm the fact. Apart from the historical side, this is just an ultra picturesque and atmospheric place to be at. Before leaving the area our tour hosts brought us for a traditional lunch.
Last one - Star Wars filming locations. Arguably, for those being in love with Star Wars movies, the areas where movies were filmed might be the highlight of their visit to Tunisia. So Tatooine, that is a different galaxy as per the movie, is in fact a real place anyone can visit. For a director George Lucas some of the Berber villages seemed just like how other galaxies might look. Guess, Berbers never thought about that. There are various locations of filming spread around the region and we managed to check one of them.
Little did we know about Ramadan when applied in real life. Also, did not take into consideration the fact that the holy month of Ramadan will take place exactly during our stay in Tunisia. In short, Ramadan is a very crucial month for Muslims and the religion. Certain strict rules apply during this time of the year to various daily things. Every day during this time from sunrise till sunset local people refrain from having meals, drinking water and smoking. Alcohol is in a way restricted always. Streets get empty at around 19:00 as many people tend to return home and wait for a complete sunset in order to be able to have their first meal of the day with a family.
All of this led to a fact that all of the cafes and restaurants were closed until around 20:00. Be it because of faith of the locals or imposed by law - we were not able to get any food at any of the restaurants we tried out. Luckily, supermarkets were open, even though it was not really our plan to lose time on cooking at home at least twice a day. Nevertheless, this brought some nice moments of cooking in a back2back mode and presenting our dishes to colleagues.
Not much said about the island. It is an island in fact. Not big - you can cross it from one side to another from any angle in just some 30 minutes. You can travel around quite comfortably and cheaply using local cabs, those can be caught easily on the streets of Djerba. They run very fast, thus you should consider if you have anything to lose.
When on the island, make sure to visit DjerbaHood. It is a next level place in comparison to the rest of the neighborhoods when speaking of modernity. The short story is that DjerbaHood was a one-time event where 150 street artists from across the globe gathered to paint with sprays on the walls of one of the areas of Djerba. This had left some legacy as DjerbaHood gained considerable media coverage and became one of the top places on Djerba to visit. We could not find DjerbaHood straight away, so we hired a local 7-years old guide. The boy knew streets of DjerbaHood in and out and he showed us the most popular graffiti paintings.
A walk on Flamingo Island is another must. Sometimes called the Island of Ten Thousands Palms the place hypnotizes with its landscapes.
It is around 30 minutes walk to reach the island if you know where to start. Unfortunately, cabs do not drive to the main sights, so it is preferred to opt for the shortest walking route. We visited this area twice during our stay in Djerba in order to capture some stunning drone footages on our second attempt. Flamingo isn't crowded with hotels and restaurants like the rest of Djerba, thus this is a place for those willing to enjoy some tranquility and flora. Actually, there is nothing related to All Inclusive vacations, so a certain degree of wilderness can be observed as well.
Last evening we spent in Midoun - a nearby town to our home. After the sunset shisha bars started to open, so we entered one to have a nice smoke with a sweet mint tea. Our week on Djerba was about to come to an end and it was time to leave. Rumors spread that the weather is getting warm in Riga.
It is not easy to travel and work. Some might think of a vacation type of trip when talking about Djerba, but this one is a mixed thing. You have to be good with your time management in order to get your work stuff sorted, but at the same time to be able to enjoy the maximum of what the area offers. Yet, it certainly is worth it. Changing the vibe of your workplace is one thing. Getting to know your colleagues much better in a different climate is another. Whenever one might have an opportunity to break away in this fashion, a chance should be taken.