From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Route djerbienne.jpg
Djerba is located in Tunisia

Djerba (Tunisia)
Location Gulf of Gabès
Area 514 km2 (198 sq mi)
Largest city Houmt Souk (pop. 65,000)
Population 139,544 (as of 2004 Census)
Density 271.5 /km2 (703.2 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Berber, Arabs, Jews and black African

Djerba (Tunisian Arabic: جربة‎  pronounced [ˈdʒɛrbæ]), also transliterated as Jerba or Jarbah,[1] is, at 514 square kilometres (198 sq mi), the largest island of North Africa, located in the Gulf of Gabes, off the coast of Tunisia.


Djerba has a mild climate and fertile soil. Its largest city is Houmt-Souk, with a population of around 65,000. Known for its beautiful beaches and dramatic sunsets, the island is a popular tourist destination, particularly with French, German and Italian tourists. It is one of the few remaining places in Tunisia where a Berber language is still spoken. Another factor drawing some tourists to Djerba is that, in 1977, the town of Ajim was used as the setting for the Mos Eisley exterior scenes in the first Star Wars movie.

Djerba is noted as a center of the Islamic sect Al-Ibadhiyah and for its Jewish minority, which has dwelt on the island for more than 2,500 years, although the Jewish population has declined significantly since 1967 due to emigration to Israel and France. With a large percentage of the community being direct Patrilineal descendants of Aaron the first high priest, the island was once known as the island of the Kohanim, Hebrew for the Jewish Priestly caste. The El Ghriba synagogue on Djerba is over 2,000 years old, making it one of the oldest and most famous synagogues in the world.[2][3]


Legend has it that Djerba was the island of the Lotus-Eaters where Odysseus was stranded on his voyage through the Mediterranean.

The island, which was called Meninx until the third century AD, includes three principal towns. One of these, whose modern name is Būrgū, is found near Midoun in the center of the island. Another city, on the southeast coast of the island at Meninx, was a major producer of murex dye, and is cited by Pliny the Elder as second only to Tyre in this regard. A third important town was the ancient Haribus. The island was densely inhabited in the Roman and Byzantine periods, and probably imported much of the grain consumed by its inhabitants.

Ghazi Mustapha Fort, Djerba, Tunisia

During the Middle Ages, Djerba was occupied by members of the Kharejite (Ibadite) sect, who claimed it as their own. The Christians of Sicily and Aragon disputed this claim with the Ibadites. Remains from this period include numerous small mosques dating from as early as the twelfth century, as well as two substantial forts.

The island was controlled twice by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily: in *1135–1158 and in *1284–1333. During the second of these periods it was organised as a feudal lordship, with the following Lords of Jerba: 1284–1305 Roger I, 1305–1307 and 1307–1310 Roger II (twice), 1310 Charles, 1310 Francis-Roger III; there were also royal governors, whose times in power partially overlapped with those of the Lords: c. 1305–1308 Simon de Montolieu, 1308–1315 Raymond Montaner.

In 1503, the corsair (pirate) Aruj and his brother Hayreddin Barbarossa took control of the island and turned it into their main base in the western Mediterranean, thus bringing it under Ottoman control. Spain launched a disastrous attempt to capture it in November, 1510. In 1513, after three years in exile in Rome, the Fregosi family returned to Genoa, Ottaviano was elected Doge, and his brother Federigo Fregosi (archbishop, later cardinal), having become his chief counsellor, was placed at the head of the army, and defended the republic against internal dangers (revolts of the Adorni and the Fieschi) and external dangers, notably suppression of the Barbary piracy: Cortogoli, a corsair from Tunis, blockaded the coast with a squadron, and within a few days had captured eighteen merchantmen; being given the command of the Genoese fleet, in which Andrea Doria was serving, Federigo surprised Cortogoli before Bizerta. Soon after, he carried out an invasion and occupation of the island and returned to Genoa with great booty.

Spanish forces returned to Djerba in 1520, and this time were successful in capturing the island. It was twice occupied by Spain, from 1521 to 1524 and from 1551 to 1560; again there were governors: 1521–1524 ..., 1560 Giovanni Andrea Doria. On May 14, 1560, the Ottoman fleet, under the command of Piyale Pasha and Turgut Reis, severely defeated the Holy League of Philip II at the Battle of Djerba. From that time until 1881, Djerba belonged to the Ottoman regency of Tunis. Subsequently, it came under the French colonial protectorate, which became the modern republic of Tunisia.

An archaeological field survey of Djerba, carried out between 1995 and 2000 under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, the American Academy in Rome and the Tunisian Institut National du Patrimoine, revealed over 400 archaeological sites, including many Punic and Roman villas.[4]

In the Ghriba synagogue bombing on April 11, 2002, a truckful of explosives was detonated close to the famous synagogue, killing 21 people (14 German tourists, 5 Tunisians and 2 Frenchmen). Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. Although tourists ceased visiting Djerba for some time after this event, normal activity has since resumed.

Administration and population[edit]

The island comprises three of the delegations within the Tunisian Département of Médenine. Named after the three towns which form their administrative centres, these delegations (with their 2004 Census populations in brackets) are Djerba Houmt Souk (64,919), Djerba Midoun (50,459) and Djerba Ajim (24,166) – the island's population at the Census thus totalling 139,544.


See also[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

  1. ^ ^ Transliteration from
  2. ^ Hotel Meninx, Ile de Jerba - Hotel Reviews, Photos, & Rates - VirtualTourist
  3. ^ Tunisian Cleric Says Jews are Apes - Middle East - News - Israel National News
  4. ^ E. Fentress, A. Drine and R. Holod, eds. An Island through Time: Jerba Studies vol 1. The Punic and Roman Periods. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary series 71,2009.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°47′N 10°53′E / 33.783°N 10.883°E / 33.783; 10.883