Restoration of Amazigh caves as tourism sites in Tunisia

North Africa

Amazigh people in Tunisia have been saving historical artefacts from extinction by restoring and converting them into tourist sites.

The Amazigh people, otherwise known as Berbers, have an age-old tradition in rural parts of Tunisia where they preserve caves as shelters that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. These caves have been passed down from generation to generation, although young people nowadays are moving to more urban locations in the country. In order to prevent the complete abandonment of the caves, the Ministry of Tourism in Tunisia has announced that it will support remote communities and advertise those sites so that they are imprinted on touristic maps.

Some of the Amazigh are inclined to think that these caves and the rural life connected to them are facing extinction if urgent support is not provided and that the local Amazigh culture in the south of Tunisia is threatened:

As you see, this village is vanishing. There are palaces which date back to 400, 500, and 600 years. Some date back to 1000 years and more. All these are disappearing. Why? Aren’t they a human and inherited heritage of the Tunisian people?” commented Al-Hadi Al- Jani, a civil activist.

Amazigh people living in remote areas in the south of the country are cut off from the economic centres and so are keen on developing tourism in the regions where they live by promoting their local culture. Fatima Talabi is one such Amazigh lady who relies on selling textiles to earn a livelihood and contribute to the conversion of her cave into a tourist attraction:

I have restored this cave and I wanted it to look beautiful. Tourists will come and see the cave in which I live.”

Amazigh culture has seen a resurgence over the past few years across North Africa since the opening up of politics in the region this decade. For instance, the Amazigh language was given official status in Morocco this year; and the Amazigh New Year was celebrated publicly for the first time last year in Algeria.