Nefta a quiet town in the south of Tunisia, home to two real gems. The first is the magnificent Corbeille, the sunken palm oasis at the centre of town. Luxuriant, peaceful and marked by the lush greenery of thousands of palm trees, the palm grove is sustained by several shimmering springs. Nefta’s second jewel is the Medina, the old town: peaceful and quiet. Let’s explore the best things in Nefta.
Corbeille means basket in French. Nefta’s Corbeille is the huge cirque in the northern part of the oasis, fed by numerous springs. Experience the majesty of this natural wonder by uncovering the hidden pools and waterfalls tucked away among the ragged rocks and swimming in the sparkling blue waters. The Corbeille is a protected ecological space and became part of a rehabilitation project after aggressive irrigation caused it to almost dry up. An immense pool, waterfalls and streams were introduced gently into the area to allow it to return to its former abundance.
Enjoy a picnic under the rhythmic shadow of the date palms, and marvel at the wonder of feasting on the succulent fruits under the very trees on which they were grown. The local dates are called Deglet Nour, which translates to “dates of light” and they have a distinctively bright, juicy sweetness. The harvesting takes place in November, during which time they are sold on every corner of the small town.
Nefta’s second jewel is the Medina, the old town. Once the heat of the day has passed, it is fascinating to wander the ancient streets. Many women make a living from weaving Kilims, the wool rugs and a peek inside one of the old houses will reveal the looms with which they are made. The architecture of Nefta is characterized by distinctive brick façades the colour of golden sands and throughout the town, you’ll find many mosques, one of the most beautiful being the Sidi M’Khareg. The town is considered a sacred religious spot and so it may not be possible to visit many of the Islamic sites unless you are accompanied by a guide.
The weekly market takes place on Thursdays and there you can pick up a rose des sables (desert rose), an inexpensive but stunning souvenir of your visit.
For eating and drinking, the options are rather limited but the Café de la Corbeille is a fabulous spot to drink a coffee with a spectacular view over the oasis. The Restaurant Les Sources is a charming spot, where the chef serves simple meals at lunchtime and in the evening rustles up a Tunisian feast complete with mouth-watering pastries and even a carafe of wine if you ask nicely and, of course, practise discretion.
The village of Nefta is very quiet, so after an hour or so wandering the ancient streets you can head to Tozeur, a larger city located just 25km away on the other side of the immense stretch of palm trees.