Residents of the island of Djerba value their identity and heritage. It is not surprising that there are three museums here dedicated to the history of the island and folk traditions. Recently, we talked in detail about the archaeological museum of Lell Hadria and the Menzel Djerba Heritage, and now we’ll talk about the ethnographic museum in the city of Guellala.
A little about the city of Guellala
Guellala is a small town with a population of only 10,000 people. It is located on the south coast of the island of Djerba, 20 kilometers from the island's capital - the city of Houmt Souk and 25 kilometers from the international airport Djerba-Zarzis.
Despite its modest size, the city is famous throughout the country. Since ancient times in the history of Tunisia, he was famous for his potters. Even the name "Guellala" is translated from the Berber language as "potters".
During the reign of Rome, the city was called "haribus", which is the Romanized Punic (Carthaginian) word "sherry" and is translated as "clay vessel". Already from these translations of the name we can conclude that Guellala was an important center of pottery even during the reign of Carthage in North Africa (6-3 centuries BC).
This economic specialization of the city of Guellala is not accidental. Near the city there are high-quality clay deposits discovered by the Berbers 3 thousand years ago.
The “calling card” of the city of Guellala is huge vessels for storing oil, you will see them everywhere: in the museum, in the pottery workshops and souvenir shops. Such an amphora could be so large that it can hold up to 300 liters of olive oil. An example of such an amphora, see the photo above.
Today, pottery in Guellala has survived, although it is on the decline, even despite the demand for Tunisian ceramics from tourists. Back in the 1950s, more than 400 craftsmen worked here, now there are about 50 left. The market is saturated with cheap ceramics from China, hence the decline in production. Guellala is considered one of the two largest pottery centers in Tunisia, the second is the city of Nabeul in the northern part of the country.
It is not surprising that this place was chosen for the largest museum on the island, showing visitors the traditions and culture of the inhabitants of the island of Djerba.
About the Guellala Museum
For the museum, a hill 54 meters high was chosen - this is the highest point on the island of Djerba. The main building of the museum was completed in 2001. For its construction used a white stone, which was brought here from the mainland.
The building of the museum repeats the configuration of the classic Jerby house-house. Selected square shape with a large garden in the center. It is in the houses with such a structure on Djerba that have been living for many centuries. All halls are located around the perimeter, visitors go through them clockwise.
In the halls, figures of people in full size show scenes from the life of the Djerbians, you can see traditional ceramics and other household items, clothes. We will tell you in detail about the most interesting points in the second part of the article, because before you look, you need to get here somehow.
Where is it and how to get there
The vast majority of tourists come here as part of an organized group. Djerba Island Sightseeing Tour is popular on the island, during which tourists are shown the Roman road, the Pottery workshop in Guellala, the El Ghriba synagogue and the Guellala Museum, and the visit to the tourist market in Houmt Souk ends this trip.
However, you can also get here on your own by taxi. A Tunisian taxi is inexpensive, a trip from any hotel in the resort area (highlighted in green on the map on the right) will cost no more than 25 Tunisian dinars. Travel time - no more than 30 minutes. Get in any taxi, payment is made on the meter, say the word "Guellala", the driver will immediately understand the purpose of the trip.
Ticket prices and excursions
Participation in an excursion for an adult tourist costs from 20 to 35 dollars. It all depends on the level of greed of the seller of the tour. For a child - from 10 to 18 dollars.
Entrance to the museum is free, at least that was in 2016, when the chief editor of the site jj-tours.ru was here. Permission to take photographs is the only thing you have to pay for, it costs 2 dinars, a small ticket is issued for memory (see photo). This permission is not included in the price of the tour.
How much time to plan
The museum has many halls and an interesting gift shop. Near the entrance there is a cafe where you can sit for a cup of coffee. If you want to see all the stands at a normal pace, then plan one hour. If you want to take a leisurely walk, spend time in the garden and sit in a cafe, then count on two hours.
The most interesting scenes and exhibits
A big plus of this museum is the presence of explanatory inscriptions in English. If you do not speak English, use mobile phone applications to read and translate labels, since they are now available in large quantities on the Apple Store and Google Play. With explanations, it becomes much more interesting to watch a museum.
On an organized tour, everything is somewhat simpler, a Russian-speaking guide will tell you everything and answer questions.
Almost half of the stands are dedicated to wedding scenes and preparations for it. A wedding on the island of Djerba has always been an important public event. Nobody was invited to it, since all residents of a village, village or district of a city were automatically considered invited.
Celebrated, as they say, "the whole village." Money for the wedding was raised by all families, each relative helped as much as he could.
In the photo on the left there is just the bridegroom, bride, mother of the bridegroom and sister of the bride directly at the time of the wedding. Click on the photo to enlarge. Please note that the face of the groom does not glow with joy.
The wedding was an important public event. The islanders' life did not imply daily communication with people outside their family. The wedding was an occasion to meet a potential bride or groom, to find out the latest news, or just chat with new people.
The bride before the wedding was locked in the room for several weeks, there her skin became whiter, it was considered beautiful. Her hair was prepared, clothes were picked up. All these procedures are shown on several stands in the museum. See the mini gallery below.
Traditional wedding dress was a very expensive pleasure, it was passed from generation to generation. Even now, a dress costs an average of 10,000 dinars. The Guellala Museum boasts a collection of wedding dresses from different regions of Tunisia. See them in the small gallery below.
Tourists are shown a traditional door with several door knockers. This is very interesting, because there were three knockers on an ordinary door.
Right top for men, left top for women and bottom for children. When the guest approached the door, he knocked with a corresponding hammer, each hammer made a different sound. The owners understood who came to them - man, woman, child. Very convenient system.
You can knock on these hammers, at least guides on excursions do it unhindered and with pleasure.
Several stands are dedicated to the Jewish community of the island of Djerba. The Djerbians are proud of their tolerance; Muslims and Jews have always lived here side by side. Arabs, Berbers and Jews have been coexisting peacefully here for more than one hundred years. See some photos below.
On stands at the Guellala Museum you will see medieval fortune-tellers, healers, artisans, officials, revolutionaries and many other characters. See the mini photo gallery below.
Outside the main building, you can see how the Djerbians crushed oil, produced fabrics and clothes. There is even a lively camel with which tourists are happily photographed.
At the end of the exhibition you can go to the gift shop. In addition to the usual assortment of souvenirs, large mosaic paintings are sold here - very beautifully, but expensively.
Travel tips for visiting the Guellala Museum
- There are a lot of greenery and beautiful flowers on the territory, do not miss the opportunity to make memorable photos.
- The toilet is at the end of the exposition, look for the inscription "WC". In the morning, during the arrival of numerous excursion groups, a huge queue forms in the toilet.
- In a cafe near the entrance, prices are two times more expensive than in institutions in the city. A can of soda - 2 dinars. We recommend taking water and a snack with you.
- It’s forbidden to climb on stands and take pictures with figures, although many tourists do it. If you decide, then be careful - do not break anything.
- On an organized tour guides do not show even half of the museum, their time is limited. Want to see the whole museum? Then come on your own.
- Look around. Near the stands there is also something to see - paintings, ceramic vases, chests and other exhibits.
Have a nice walk in the Guellala Museum, and read our other interesting articles about Tunisia (links below).
Photo and description
On the south side of the island of Djerba in Tunisia is a very unusual place - the village of Gellala. Its name is translated from the Dzherbin dialect as a "pot" for a reason - this place has long been famous for its pottery. This is the only place in Djerba where all the inhabitants communicate among themselves in the Berber language.
Local potters have a special technology for making pottery, which was previously kept secret - clay for future products is dipped in salt water and kept there for a certain time, or simply mixed with sea water. After mixing, the clay dries for several days. The finished product is sent to dry for one and a half to two months. And finally, dried dishes are fired in ovens half-buried in the ground for four days. Moreover, now, like many centuries ago, white clay is mined at a depth of 80 meters.
Gellala has a little more than 450 pottery workshops! Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that for many centuries this village has been the main supplier of ceramic dishes and other clay products throughout Tunisia. Due to its high quality, the bei accepted the products of this village instead of a significant part of taxes until the end of the 19th century. The most popular and famous form that glorified the masters of this region is an amphora. In addition to this traditional vessel in the village of Gellala, potters make cups, large jugs, bowls, dishes, small vessels for storing spices, incense, vinegar and oil.
There is an ethnographic museum in the village, which will certainly be interesting for anyone to visit. Here you can find out about the life of the local people - Dzherbintsy. The exhibition presents ceramics, examples of traditional clothes and elaborate jewelry.
Guellala Folk Traditions Museum (Gellala)
Guellala - a typical ethnographic museum. Exhibits demonstrate household items of Tunisians, especially national culture. The museum’s exposition presents scenes from life: baking bread, making fabric, preparing the bride for the wedding - wax figures in traditional clothes are busy with everyday activities.
It is interesting to take a look at the collection of wedding clothes from various regions of Tunisia. Many exhibits are dedicated to the wedding theme - this is an important and expensive event in the life of Tunisians.
There are exhibits dedicated to the life of the Jewish community on the island. Jews live on the island for more than one thousand years - the age of the El Ghrib synagogue is more than 2000 years.
Near the museum there are a couple of interesting exhibits - a workshop for the extraction of olive oil, here you can see the whole process in detail, and a workshop for the manufacture of fabrics.
The museum building is located on a hill, from here there are picturesque views of Djerba, only this can serve as an occasion for his visit.
Entrance fees to the Gellal Museum
Input - 7 TND / resolution for photo and video shooting - 2 TND
The Gellala Museum is part of a tour program for the island. Most tourists visit this place this way, however, the time for inspection is clearly not enough.
The cost of the organized excursion: adult $ 20-25, child $ 10-15 (for more information on the current prices for excursions, see the corresponding section of the site).
Location of the Gellala Museum
Gellala is 20 km from the capital of the island of Houmt Souk
Musee du Patrimoine Guellala, Guellala, Djerba
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How to get to the Gellal Museum
You can get to Gellala yourself by taxi - given reasonable rates, this will be the most convenient way. The cost of a trip from the farthest hotels will cost you 10 TND, if you want the driver to take you to the main facilities, wait and return - 25-30 TND.
If you want to calmly explore the museum, with fewer visitors, come in the afternoon - before lunch organized groups come in large numbers here.
When approaching the village, on the side of the road you will see stylized pottery workshops. There will be two, on both sides of the road. You will not pass by, everything shouts in them and with all his appearance declares that you are in place.
Small and very attractive pottery workshops, clay pitchers and pots everywhere, even within the walls of the workshops.
Here they will show in detail and tell how ceramic products are made.
First, you will be shown the process of making a clay mug,
then they will conduct and show the furnaces in which they burned clay products
they will lead you into a dark underground cave, where, passing through narrow passages with a candle in their hands, they will show how clay is mined, where there is bad clay, and where it is suitable for craftsmanship
In the photo, red petrified clay is not suitable for clay products, but light - good, you can take it and start making crafts))
The main part of the workshop is, of course, the ceramics shop, where, after a short excursion, you can buy traditional ceramic painted dishes - plates, cups, saucers, bowls, etc., various souvenirs, pots, jugs and small vessels for storage wine, olive oil and spices.
Here you will be shown an interesting ceramic camel, in which one liquid is poured from above, a second from below, everything is mixed inside and then, from the neck, a ready-made substance, for example, whiskey-cola, flows. The whole joke of a camel is that it pours one liquid, it cannot be poured out of the neck until another liquid enters the second hole.
In the small courtyard of the workshop is also quite interesting,
various clay pots
You can drink camels and, of course, take a few pictures as a keepsake
Ethnographic Museum of Guellala / Mussee de Guellala
From the pottery workshop you need to take a taxi or walk along the road towards the center of the village and on the right side, on the hill, you will see a large white building. Do not pass by! Take a look here! This is the famous and the best museum of folk traditions on the island in Gellal.
A visit to this museum has become one of the most interesting, memorable and informative events on the island of Djerba. Everything in the museum is vibrant and colorful, without a doubt it will be interesting for both children and adults, of all ages.
The museum clearly shows the unique, old and a bit strange way of life of the inhabitants of Djerba. All this is presented in several halls of the museum, which demonstrate scenes from the life of the Djerbians.
Entrance to the museum is paid. Entrance ticket price is 7 DT, photo or video shooting is 2 DT.
Here you can see colorful sketches from the life of the inhabitants of Djerba
For example, how weddings and holidays were held on Djerba, how they gave birth and raised children, or how the process of circumcision of boys' babies took place. Everything looks pretty realistic.
And also the whole process of life of the Djerbians, their craft, life and way of life. How to cook couscous and bake bread in an old clay herd “herd”, grind grain and cook food, weave traditional bedspreads “cupcakes”, housekeeping and resting
In a separate building of the museum there is a stylized workshop-press of olive oil, where you can see the process of obtaining it.
All the halls of the museum are grouped around a central open-air courtyard with bright flowers, trees and benches.
In the yard you can ride in a "sleigh", which is pulled by a live camel and try yourself in the process of disking the soil
There is a cafe at the main entrance to the museum, for those who want to relax, have a snack or have a cold drink
About 2 kilometers from the Guellala Museum is the village of the same name. In the center of the village are numerous shops and shops that sell all the same ceramic products. Here the streets are lined with painted plates, jugs and all kinds of bright ceramics.
In addition to the pottery shops in the village, it will also be interesting to just walk and breathe in the flavor of the Jerby life
For us, a visit to the village of potters of Guellala, and all its places of interest, has become one of the most memorable events on the island of Jreba. We received a lot of positive emotions and vivid impressions, and also learned a lot of new and unusual things from the life of local residents.
We, with confidence, can recommend a visit to Gellala to everyone who comes to visit the sunny Tunisian island of Jreba. Believe me, you will have something to remember!
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