The Kerkennah islands are a group of islands 20 km off the coast of Sfax in Tunisia. The islands don’t often make it on to the average Tunisian sightseeing tour. If you compare with the ruins of mighty Carthage, the impressive Roman colosseum in El Jem, or the Grand Mosque of Kairouan, Kerkennah might not seem worth your time. However, I’ve experienced the culture and life of Kerkennah in a way that made me realize they’re a hidden treasure for the experiential traveler to explore.
The Kerkennah Islands: Fishing Tours and Local Cuisine
On one visit, two friends and I went out with a young fisherman named Seif on his small fishing boat. Traditional fishing methods are an important part of Kerkennah’s culture as well as economy. During our time on the water, Seif showed us their method of catching octopus in special clay jars, and how they catch fish using a series of walls made from palm branches in the shallow water. After our tour, we headed back to shore and walked together to his house just up the road. We had a delicious lunch together -some highlights were the freshly pressed olive oil from his family’s olive grove, grilled fish with just the right spices, and Kerkennah’s signature tsheesh bil qarnit (a thick tomato soup with cooked octopus bites). Our day with Seif truly engaged the 5 senses!
The Kerkennah Islands by Bicycle
On another visit to the islands, a friend and I discovered Kerkennah on bicycles. The Kerkennah islands are excellent for biking because they’re flat and there are an abundance of good dirt paths. We found a good path that followed the coast, so we were never far from the deep blue water. The bike tour was both physically invigorating and culturally insightful. Along the way we exchanged greetings with men and women working on the olive and date harvest. We observed fishermen working in their boats not far from the shore. We also got to see some large birds hanging out or searching for food in the shallow water. Beautiful! As I’ve reflected on both of these visits to Kerkennah, I realize I feel a connection to both the people and the place. I didn’t do much sightseeing, but I experienced Kerkennah with all of my senses. That’s what makes me want to go back, and I’d love to take other travelers hungry for an authentic experience. If you’re planning a trip to Tunisia that goes beyond sightseeing, include the Kerkennah islands on your itinerary! Don’t hesitate to contact me to book an experience or tour with Engaging Cultures, or even simply to help you with your plans.
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Austin learned the power of authentic travel during a year home-stay experience in Brazil. Since then, he’s been passionate about connecting deeply with other cultures and helping fellow travelers do the same. He and his wife have lived in Tunisia for several years. He continues to be surprised by the hidden gems the country has to offer, as well as the hospitality and kindness of the Tunisian people.
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