Nefta, the quiet authentic town near Tozeur, is a desert oasis sandwiched between the dunes and old houses. In Nefta, there are two unmissable attractions: Corbeille and the Medina. Explore the palm oasis, awaken your taste buds with bio dates; intermingle with female artisans; enjoy the stories of people who take all pains to preserve the biodiversity of the region and bring into it the advantages of modernity.

 

 If you’re tempted by visiting the south of Tunisia, you may be tailoring road trips in southern Tunisia. Nefta is a destination you want to include in your itinerary. WildyNess team guides you to the best activities to do in Nefta, from how to explore it, where to stay to what to eat and shop. 

 

How to Get to Nefta from Tunis? 

Nefta, known as “the pearl of Djerid'', is a calm city nestled between Chott el-jerid and  the dunes of the Sahara. Located 20 km from Tozeur and 34 km from Hazoua, the nearest Algerian city, Nefta hosts the beauty of the southern part of Tunisia and western south of Algeria. 

 

nefta visit

 

By car: 

Visiting the south of Tunisia is a good idea. Renting a car to enjoy your road trip is better. You can easily contact reliable car rental agencies to get a 4*4.  Once you have your car, you can enjoy safe and easy trips to the southern part of the country. Take the highway from Tunis-Hammamet until Gabes. Then, take the national highway through Gafsa, Metlaoui, Dguache and Tozeur. 

 

Reaching Tozeur means you’re a few kilometers away from Nefta. 

 

By train: 

The trip by train from Tunis to Tozeur would take approximately 9 hours. If you’re a slow traveler, this would give you the opportunity to experience the trip as a local while enjoying the landscape from Tunis to Tozeur. If not, a long nap could be a good idea to replenish your energy. Once you reach Gabes, a bus will be waiting for you to get you to Nefta. 

 

By louage: 

As you can tell, reaching Nefta using public transport means going to Tozeur first. From Moncef Bey, Tunis, get a louage to Tozeur. Louages are usually available before 2 or 3pm. So, plan your trip accordingly. The trip would usually take from 6 to 7 hours. Once you reach Tozeur, you can easily catch a louage to Nefta. 

 

By plane: 

 

For those who want to minimize their trip time, you can book a ticket to the international airport Tozeur-Nefta. The airport is located around twenty kilometers away. Once you’re in the airport you can easily catch a cab from there. 

 

How to Explore Nefta?

 

Visit the Central Oasis until the Corbeille: 

Nefta is known for its palm oasis. A wonderful heaven where palms are growing big and tall and springs flow to feed them. A step into the oasis makes you in awe of the majestic grandeur of nature. In the northern part of the Oasis, the Corbeille, borrowing its name from the French word meaning basket, lies. 

 

The Corbeille is one of those unmissable spots in the South of Tunisia.  It’s  a fossil tablecloth. Due to aggressive irrigation, the region was declared an ecological space where a rehabilitation project was implemented. This makes it, today, one of the most preserved and developed spots. 

The project culminated in a well-equipped and -preserved space.

 

 You will find a pool, a stream, waterfalls and huts. A small paradise surrounded by palms and trees.  The blue of the sky and water intermingles with the green of the palms to accentuate the charm of the golden desert.

 

Visit the Old Town Medina of Nefta: 

 

The Medina, or old town, is Nefta's second must-see site.  The heat of Southern Tunisia may be unbearable in some months of the year.  It's a thrill to walk the strange and historic streets once you feel you want to take a break from the oasis.  

 

nefta old town

 

Nefta's architecture is distinguished by its golden sands-colored brick façades that recalls the desert scenery. More than an aesthetic choice, the color of the façades serve to protect the buildings from the scorching sun. 

 

Many gorgeous mosques can be found around the place , with the Sidi M'Khareg being one of the most stunning. The town is considered a sacred religious territory, and many mosques cannot be accessible to tourists during the prayer hours. But, you can always find a local guide to assist you through them.  

 

In the valleys of the Medina, many stores open their doors to tourists and locals to offer authentic products. Women in Nefta make from weaving klims a profession. You will find a lot of these professionals in their stores making sure to show you how they do to make out of raw wool a beautiful rug. 

 

Take a Break for Lunch 

 

It’s time for a little break. In the valleys of the Old Town, you can find some local restaurants and cafés to sit, eat and sip your green tea. If you’re looking for an unparalleled culinary experience, we recommend the restaurant Dar Hi, formerly known as El Ferdaous-zombrita. 

 

If not, you can grab a mtabga or a spicy Ojja from the local restaurants.

 

Shop Local Products and Souvenirs 

 

While in Medina, you will encounter many shops. These shops are usually run either by women who weave klims, tunisian wool rugs, or carpenters who use the palm wood to shape decorative and functional items. Whether you’re looking for a beautifully arranged wool rug or an eco-friendly yet small decorative piece, you will find your happiness. 

 

Still, you can run out of time! So, if you want to purchase a souvenir from Nefta and optimize your trip time, take a look at El Mensej - Nefta. El Mensej is a hub for local artisans to sell their products. All products share the same values: eco-friendly, sustainable and socially responsible. 

 

Visit the Marbouts (Sidi Bou Ali, Sidi Hassan Aied and more) 

 

Nefta is deemed to be the stronghold of Sufism.  Back to the 12th century, sufism has been disseminated by holy men "saints" who were keen on founding their own brotherhoods with hard and fast rules and disciples. 

 

All of these saints share some common traits and superpowers. They are thought to be behind a large number of miracles and believed to be able to discard evil and bad luck. For this reason, their tombs ( known as marabouts) are turned into places of pilgrimage.  

 

Today, the number of marabouts in Nefta exceeds 100, making the city full of scattered sacred marabouts.  This number along with the staunch veneration of these saints makes Nefta “the kairouan of the South”. 

 

marbout nefta

Copyright: Mohamed Said

Sidi Hassan Aied: 

 

Sidi Hassan Aied, a gem in the middle of nowhere. Hit the road to the location till you notice a house with a dome “marbout”. 

Sidi Hassan Aied is one of the saints who had a great reputation. He is known to be the saint of the beach. Back to his time, he was known to be a shield against all catastrophes, mishaps and evils. People come to his marbout to feel better and relieve their grief and distress. 

 

Sidi Bou Ali: 

 

The most famous and cherished saint in Nefta. He was killed at the age of 117 years old by religious rivals. His corpse was stolen by them later on. His allies took pains to get it back and bury it. 

This makes the mausoleum historically and religiously significant.  A step into the mausoleum makes you notice how well-preserved it is. The architecture is a mix between that of a mosque, zaouia (commemorative shrine) and that very unique of Nefta. Colorful earthenware, green tomb and golden bricks all mix to make this mausoleum very unique. 

 

If you’re lucky enough, you may stumble on the club of Sidi Bou Ali and assist one of their Hadhra’s sessions. 

 

Sidi Merzoug: 

 

Another sufi saint, but this time one of the few black ones, Sidi Merzoug. Sidi Merzoug was known for his ability to be unscathed by fire.  And, thanks to it, he was recognized as a saint despite his race. His followers were colloquially known as Black Brotherhood. 

 

They were distinguished by their music, like all other brotherhoods. Gnawa music is now heard by thousands across the country. But, it was originally played and cherished by Sidi Merzoug’s followers. 

 

Take a Dinner in the Desert: 

 

As an experience provider, WildyNess offers a VIP dinner in the depths of the desert. Waiting for dinner on a hungry stomach is definitely unbearable. But, can you imagine yourself at the top of the highest dune in Nefta’s oasis witnessing sunset? Add to this an aperitif in your hand? Picture complete? We bet you’ve forgotten how hungry you are! This is but the start of your unforgettable night. 

 

The camp offers a setting inspired by the  bedouin style where a chic yet relaxed atmosphere hovers.  In the midst of the perfectly flawless sand slopes, you can disconnect from the world and live some romantic or relaxed moments. The sand, the stars and your friends. Can you wish for any better setting? We can only think of a very Nefta-typical dinner to complement the night. 

Just in front of your secluded tent, a table will be waiting for you. A dinner will be served. And, your tummy and buds will be satisfied. 

dinner nefta tunisia

Hit the Road to Ong Jemal (Star Wars Site) 

 

From Nefta, hit the road to the hidden gem: Ong Jemal, literally means the neck of the camel. It inspires its name from its rock formation, obviously similar to the neck of a camel from afar. It only takes 35 minute to reach the place.  You can go by taxi or hire a driver who knows the place. 

If you prefer going solo without any help. You can ask whomever you encounter to guide you to the place. Everyone there knows how significant the location is for tourists. 

For cinephiles, especially Star Wars’ fans, Ong Jemal is a must-see. Enjoy the landscape where several movie casts fell under its spell. Climb to the top of the rocks to enjoy the view over the desert. 

 

mos espa nefta

 

Where to Stay in Nefta?

 

The small city of Tozeur is not far from Nefta and offers equally attractive boutique hotel stays and walking trips through canyons to hidden waterfalls.

 

tozeur tunisia

 

Tozeur, along with Nefta, boasts some of the best hotels in Tunisia. While the number is not big, the choice there is quite interesting for every category. The last few years witnessed a growth in the ecosystem preservation and development movements. 

Dar Hi, a luxurious boutique hotel in the middle of the Nefta oasis and more, is one of the pioneers in leading agricultural, cultural and social approaches to revive the oasis. The ecolodge hosts “Palm Lab” , a space for engineers, architects and artists to discuss the best ways to conserve the oasis. In 2022, they will go a step ahead by hosting a cultural residency within the Dar. 

If you plan to stay one night or more in Nefta, we recommend Dar Hi. As you can tell by now, you have a myriad of chances to meet professionals, rural farmers, local cooks and nomad artists at the same place. 

 

Residence Le Ruisseau is another pick for budget stay. Located in Tozeur, less than 4km away from the Sahara Zoo, it offers a friendly setting overlooking a beautiful garden and a quite big terrace. This is a great go-to stay if you’re looking for a place near the airport without going crazy with your accommodation budget. 

 

What to Eat in Neftah?

 

Tunisian cuisine  derives from different gastronomic traditions and brings together  the different cultural heritages of the country to the table.  Ranging from Berber and Punic heritages to the Arab, Jewish, Turkish, Greek and Italian, your palate will notice the difference while you’re moving from one place to another. 

 

As cuisines usually depend on the climate and the geography of the country,  the Tunisian southern cuisine has its own dishes and special ingredients. Nefta is not an exception to the rule. And that’s why, you will find there local dishes you cannot find elsewhere. 

 

food tunisian

 

Shakhchoukha

 

If you’re not familiar with arabic sounds, you may fall into the confusion between “shakhchouka” and “Shakshuka ”. So, let’s debunk this so you can tell the difference. Shakshuka is a sort of ratatouille based on tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic and usually comes with a poached egg. If you’re tantalized, you can always find “shakshuka” in Nefta and other places with a bit of difference in the spices used. But, if you want to eat a typical dish from Nefta, you would rather order “shakhchouka”. 

You can rarely find “shakchouka” in a place rather than Nefta. It's a dish  based on semolina pasta cooked in a pan and cut into small pieces, served with lamb meat, beans and chickpeas. All of these ingredients are drizzled with tomato sauce.

 

Mtabga:

 

The mtabga is a traditional southern Tunisian pancake that is popular in Gafsa and other southern regions like Nefta.  These thick and flaky pancakes are  stuffed with onions, red peppers, parsley and tomatoes.

Depending on the region and the cook, you can also find mtabga filled with lamb fat or spicy filling. If you don’t prefer the strong taste, we highly recommend asking about the ingredients before ordering your mtabga. 

 

Camel Meat: 

 

If you have ever been to the Middle East, we bet you know the delicacy of camel meat. If not, you have a great opportunity to discover the taste of camel meat while you’re in Nefta. As it’s known for camel breeding, Nefta is the place to be if you want to give camel steaks or camel milk a try. Please note that camel meat may not be 100% Kosher.

 

Nefta, a heavenly oasis that offers more than you think 

 

Nefta, nestled in the heart of Tozeur, has a lot to offer you.  In addition to its vast oasis, its vivid colors and its unique Medina, the charm of the city lies in its religious Sufi heritage. The marbouts scattered in the city can open your eyes into a whole new dimension of the world. Nefta promises an unparalleled spiritual experience. You won’t be the same after visiting Nefta, taking in its fresh air and exploring its marbouts.