The Mediterranean island without the Brits – but is still 30C in autumn

“You can have any fish as long as it’s dourada,” says my guide Haitham as we browse Houmt-Souk’s fish market.

I’m in the capital – more like a big village – of the Tunisian island of Djerba, which I quickly realize must be one of the least known islands in the Mediterranean.

On the north coast, the beaches are a dreamy, wide expanse of butterscotch-colored sand

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On the north coast, the beaches are a dreamy, wide expanse of butterscotch-colored sandPhoto credit: Getty
But many of the visitors who make it to Djerba are fanatics of a newer religion - Jedi

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But many of the visitors who make it to Djerba are fanatics of a newer religion – JediPhoto credit: Getty
The local Tunisian beer Celtia is almost indispensable when the temperature exceeds 30ºC

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The local Tunisian beer Celtia is almost indispensable when the temperature exceeds 30ºCPhoto credit: Getty

Houmt-Souk’s fish market, where vendors bark at their friends behind shelves of silver and gold catch, leads to the town’s actual market – a maze of caves and stalls selling everything from carpets and sweets to terracotta vases.

But my nostrils lead me to the spice stalls, where vendors dip huge metal scoops into piles of cayenne pepper, turmeric, saffron, cumin, and ginger. They also seem to know all their customers by name. In fact, I’m the only tourist in the market or souk.

As I sit down for a strong coffee under the shade of a palm tree, I ask Haitham where all the visitors have gone. “We get something from France, but there are very few Brits here,” he says while nibbling on a brik – a local specialty made of puff pastry stuffed with egg, harissa, parsley and chopped onions.

“There are no direct flights from the UK but I think it’s worth the extra flight time. Nowhere else in North Africa can you find more tranquillity.”

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This isn’t just a tourist brochure game. Djerba – only slightly larger than the Isle of Wight – is home to one of the largest Jewish populations left in an Arabic-speaking country.

In the village of Hara Seghira, a huge blue synagogue stands side by side with the soaring minarets of the local mosques.

Both the Muslim Friday prayer and the Jewish Shabbat on Saturday are observed here without a hitch.

I see men in Jewish hats walking alongside men in traditional Muslim headgear.

But many of the visitors who make it to Djerba are fanatics of a newer religion – Jedi.

On the west coast, a lonely, squat, whitewashed house sits alongside Roman ruins and olive groves. This house, as any Star Wars fan knows, was the home of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first film of the sci-fi saga.

It was built specifically for this film in 1977 and left behind afterwards.
Today it’s a haven for passing cyclists when the heat gets too much. Sitting here as the sun goes down is enchanting to me, even without the prospect of Luke Skywalker stopping by.

The beaches are a dreamy, wide expanse of butterscotch-colored sand

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The beaches are a dreamy, wide expanse of butterscotch-colored sandPhoto credit: Rex
Musicians at a Berber Wedding, Midoun, Djerba, Tunisia

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Musicians at a Berber Wedding, Midoun, Djerba, TunisiaPhoto credit: Rex
I'm the only tourist in the market or souk

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I’m the only tourist in the market or soukPhoto credit: Getty
Cantina spaceport scene in Star Wars movies

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Cantina spaceport scene in Star Wars moviesPhoto credit: Shutterstock

amulets and rhinestones

Djerba was also the location of Star Wars’ Cantina spaceport.
Visitors like me don’t have to adhere to many of the island’s religious customs.

Alcohol is plentiful – and the local Tunisian Celtia beer is almost indispensable when the temperature tops 30°C, which is often the case even in autumn.

On the north shore, the beaches are a dreamy, wide expanse of butterscotch-colored sand fringed by massive resort hotels like the luxurious Radisson Blu Palace.

Back in Houmt-Souk, I spend the early evening peeking into the windows of the huge selection of jewelry stores, sparkling and sparkling with silver necklaces, charms and rhinestones.

This jewelry is traditionally made by Jews and sold by Muslims, and wearing it means pinning tolerance to one’s ears or draping it around one’s neck.

“The important thing isn’t whether you’re Jewish or Muslim or Christian,” Haitham tells me. “It’s about being Djerban. Nowhere else is this island so big.”

My guide is right.

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I have never seen the harmony of Djerba anywhere in the Mediterranean.

And with the added bonuses of sensational food, sun-kissed sandy beaches – and even the home of Darth Vader’s nemesis.

GO: DJERBA, TUNISIA

GET THERE: Mytrip is offering return flights from Manchester to Djerba in November from £286.99 per person. The flight includes a stopover in Paris and requires self-transfer, meaning you’ll need to collect and re-check your luggage. See www.mytrip.com.
STAY THERE: Rooms at the Radisson Blu, Djerba (radissonhotels.com) from £86.22, with breakfast included.
MORE INFO: See discovertunisia.uk.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/travel/20115232/tunisia-mediterranean-island-autumn/ The Mediterranean island without the Brits – but is still 30C in autumn

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