So when the father and son van driver took me here, there was two towns of the same name, so actually Matmata has just 3,000 people living in it. 15km north is “new Matmata” I was confused why this would be.
I ended up going here unintentionally. A big stupid mistake which should have been obvious visiting a small African town – I ran out of cash. No one here really takes cards apart from some stores selling larger-ticket items (like carpets) to tourists.
Matamata itself has two ATM machines in the high street – both of them were broken. A local guide offered me for a price to drive me to the newer Nouvelle Matmata to use another (the only one) ATM which would only let me take out 150 Dinars, and only accepted one of my three cards. This was enough money to pay him his fee, my last night at Sidi Idris and my transport back to Djerba, whilst he tried to sell me another guided tour. (I declined)
The story behind New Matmata is this, the traditional town does not have reliable sources of water. Therefore in recent years the modern town has the water supply, but people living in more conventional types of homes and well, its a bit dull.
Cue all of the “its not as good as the original” analogies.
There is a huge amount of rubbish lying around on the outskirts of the modern Matmata, mostly plastic. We could gather up some of the overly enthusiastic eco-warriors who want to get arrested in London, bring them over and help them clear up here maybe. Another thing I don’t quite understand, is there are a lot of abandoned wrecks of cars lying around, something that would fetch money for scrap in the UK, but I don’t see any metal recycling happening.
My guide who drove there had excellent English and told me that that New Matmata has better access to water infrastructure, therefore farming is easier to do here. This is more of a built up traditional small town. Tunisian people seem more hopeful with the new president after some instability in recent years.
Ok, so back to the
old Republic old Matmata, hanging out in the evening and looking at the sun going down is another wonderful experience here. You can see children playing and chickens wandering around, and the town has plenty of date palms and olive trees.
One more night at Chateaux de Skywalker, sorry I mean Sidi Idris.
Matmata’s bus station. I got chatting to a couple who are from Canada and Australia, this was one of the first conversations I’ve had with other foreigners here.
The bus is a huge coach that goes all the way back to Djerba on the ferry via the city of Gabes. Its also fun watching the blacksmiths across the square work while waiting for the bus.
1. Plans – 2. French Connection – 3. My hotel in Djerba – 4. El Griba synagogue outside – 5. El Griba synagogue inside – 6. Markets – 7. Christianity in Tunisia – 8. Ferry to mainland Tunisia – 9. Getting to Matmata, Tunisia – 10. Sidi Idris Hotel New Hope Star Wars filmset – 11. Secrets I learnt about the famous Matmata Star Wars set – 12. Cave homes for would-be Jedis – 13. More what you don’t see in Star Wars at Hotel Sidi Idris – 14. How hospitable is Sidi Idris? – 15. ATM machines and drought – 16. Matmata Nouvelle (New Matmata) – 17. Tunisian butchers and fisherman – 18. Libyan and Algerian neighbours – 19. Jewellery businesses in Djerba – 20. Tunisia and Israel relations – 21. Hara Kebira, Jewish school, soap and TV repair shops – 22. Jewish community of Hara Kebira – 23. Going home