The Best Ksour of Tataouine in Tunisia

The Ksour of Tataouine are one of the highlights of any trip to Tunisia. They are made famous by the Star Wars movies that were filmed in several ksour around Tataouine in Southern Tunisia. 

In Star Wars the Ksour around Tataouine featured as slave quarters on the fictional planet Tatooine. In reality they are ancient Berber structures.

The Ksour of Tataouine
The Ksour of Tataouine

What are the Ksour of Tataouine 

Ksour is simply the plural of the word Ksar. The Arabic word for castle. In Northern Africa they refer to the ancient Berber fortified villages that were used to store precious grain.

The Berbers, or Amazigh as they call themselves, are the indigenous people of the Maghreb. They have their own centuries old language, alphabet and culture. They waged a fierce resistance against the Arab invaders before surrendering to Islam. 

The Berbers used to live in troglodyte caves under the ground or in fortified settlements perched high on hill tops in the northern fringes of the Sahara desert. Every Berber village had a fortified Ksar. 

The Ksour around Tataouine were used to store the harvest of the whole village. They  could store large amounts of grain. This way they could survive droughts and other years the harvest wasn’t so good. The ksour had thick walls and heavy doors of palm wood to protect it from outsiders. 

Some ksour were only used to store grain, others were also used as living quarters. The Ghorfa are the vaulted rooms where people stored the grain. They are stacked on top of each other in mud brick structures that almost resemble a honeycomb. The ksour can reach up to four floors and include underground spaces too for natural refrigeration.

Most ksour around Tataouine are from the 14th and 15th century. Nowadays, most are left abandoned as the Berbers prefer modern homes made of concrete. Even though they are way more hot in summer and way more cold in winter.

Most Ksour of Tataouine are built on top of hills with spectacular views
Most Ksour of Tataouine are on top of hills with spectacular views

The Berbers of Tunisia 

The Berbers are now a minority in Tunisia. The Amazigh of Tunisia live mostly in the Dahar mountain range in southern Tunisia including Tataouine. 

One of the rich cultural heritage of the Berbers are their beautiful symbols. Berbers use this geometrical patterns as tattoos, but also decorate their homes with them. 

The Ksour in Southern Tunisia also includes many Berber patterns on the vaulted ceilings. As charming as the ksour might look from the outside, you will find more secrets inside that will teach you more about Berber culture.

You will find ancient Berber symbols including feet, hands and fish. I wasn’t able to find the meanings of all these symbols, but I found them very beautiful. Apparently, the fish is the protective Berber symbol to ward off the evil eye.

Medieval Berber patterns in the Ksour of Tataouine
Medieval Berber patterns in the Ksour of Tataouine

The best Ksour of Tataouine 

Ksar Mgabla

Ksar Mgabla is the closest Ksar to Tataouine. From the center of the city it is a 1 hour hike up the small hill.  

This Ksar is rather small. But it is a good example of a traditional berber ksour common in Southern Tunisia. The Ghorfa form an oval with a central courtyard.

The walls form an almost impenetrable circle. The entrance is now open, but I am sure there used to be a heavy door to protect the harvest from outsiders and thieves.

There seems to be nobody to maintain the ksar and there is a lot of trash around. You will see this in many abandoned ksour near Tataouine. Still, it gives a very authentic feel to the place.

Considering the ksar is from the 15th century, it is amazing what still stands. The stacked ghorfa are up to 4 floors. Look close to the ceilings and you can still see some Berber patterns.

Rating: 7/10

Accesibility: own car or by foot from Tatouine

Best for: close to Tataouine 

Ksar Mgabla is the bearest Ksour near Tataouine
The ancient Ksar Mgabla near Tataouine

Ksar el Ferech

Ksar el Ferech is another Ksar very close to Tataouine. Unique is the rather large courtyard. Like Ksar Mgabla it feels more authentic as there is nobody to maintain it. Some parts are even run down. The ghorfas are up to two floors only.

Rating: 6/10

Accesibility: own car

Best for: close to Tataouine 

Berber patterns insude the Ksour of Tataouine
Hand inside a ghorfa at Ksar El Ferech

Ksar Beni Barka

Ksar Beni Barka was one of my favourite ksour near Tataouine. It was used for both grain storage as well as living quarters and as a fortified castle.

Its defensive use is clear. Being on top of the hill, you can see your enemies coming to you, days in advance. The walls are thick and the entrance once held a large palm wood door to keep unwanted visitors outside.

The old dwellings and ghorfas form a circle on top of the hill. The ghorfas for grain storage are within the inner circle and the outer circle contains other structures. You can see some renovations here and there, but it is very subtle. Overall, it feels authentic and the views are amazing. 

It is a rather steep climb up. The higher you get, the more ruins you discover. 

Rating: 8/10

Accesibility: own car and hike up the mountain (20 – 40 minutes)

Best for: views, hiking and exploring 

The Entrance to Ksar Beni Barka
The Entrance to Ksar Beni Barka

Ksar Ouled Debbab

Ksar Ouled Debbab is an old ksar with an elongated courtyard. The front part is completely renovated and is now a luxury hotel with a restaurant and small museum. 

The renovations for the hotel at Ksar Ouled Debbab were controversial as they strayed far away from the original. Pictures of the star wars scenes filmed here, are now the only proof of how the courtyard really looked like.

Behind the hotel is a rather large part that is left as it was. It is rundown, but interesting to see. You can explore the ruins and enjoy the views. 

Rating: 6/10

Accesibility: own car. 

Best for: exploration

Ksar Ouled Debbab
The unrenovated part of Ksar Ouled Debbab

Ksar Ouled Oun/ Maztouria

Ksar Maztouria or Ksar Ouled Oun is a beautiful ksar midway between Tataouine and the famous Ksar Ouled Soltane. 

Surprisingly few people stop here. It is renovated just a little bit and the ceiling of the ghorfa still holds lots of ancient berber inscriptions. 

I could see geometric patterns, drawings of grain and even hands and feet. The grain storage ghorfa are on top of the hill. Down the hill are some ruins of the old berber settlement. 

The views from Ksar Ouled Oun are very nice and therefore it is definitely worth a stop

Rating: 7/10

Accesibility: own car

Best for: views

Berber inscriptions at Ksar Ouled Oun
Berber inscriptions at Ksar Ouled Oun

Ksar Ouled Soltane

Ksar Ouled Soltane is the most famous ksar near Tataouine. Some say it is the most beautiful one, but I tend to disagree.

It is completely renovated and therefore feels less authentic. New plasterwork has been put over ancient berber inscriptions. Some niches even have new tilework put inside.

It is rather small as well. Reasons of the extensive renovations is because it was used as the slave quarters in the Star Wars movies.

Rating: 6/10

Accesibility: own car

Best for: Star Wars fans

Ksar Ouled Soltane
4 layers of ghorfa at Ksar Ouled Soltane

Ksar Haddada

Ksar Haddada is a small ksar near the village of Ghomraseni. It is mostly famous because it was another one of the Star Wars film locations. 

Ksar Haddada is now a hotel and much work has been done into transforming the old granary storage niches into nice rooms. Some even have private bathrooms. 

The ksar is renovated for the hotel, but it is nicely done. The rooms are very nice and it would definitely be an experience to stay in one of the ksour around Tataouine. 

The owners left a small part of the ksar as it was. Very nice that you can get to see both the renovated parts of the ksar as well as the authentic ruins.

Rating: 7/10

Accesibility: own car

Best for: Star wars fans

Ksar Haddada
Hotel rooms at Ksar Haddada

Ksar Jouamaa

Ksar Jouamaa is a large ksar in the middle of the desert that is completely renovated and now functions as a hotel and restaurant. 

It is a very scenic place. When I was there it was very quiet and there seemed to be no visitors. I was surprised, because the hotel looks like a very nice place to spend the night in one of the ksour in Southern Tunisia.

Each niche that was once used for grain storage is now transformed in a nicely decorated bedroom. Larger niches are made into dining rooms and bathrooms. 

The ksar is high on a hilltop with spectacular views of the surrounding desert. I can imagine it is a great place to see the night sky. 

Rating: 8/10

Accesibility: own car

Best for: the view

Ksar Jouamaa
Prayer room at Ksar Jouamaa

Ksar Hallouf

Ksar Hallouf is a large ksar on the top of a hill with nice views over the area. It has a large courtyard with a cafe. The ksar is in the process of being renovated. 

One part is done, other parts are still in ruins. It was interesting to see both. This ksar gets very few visitors so most likely you will have the place to yourself 

Rating: 7/10

Accesibility: own car

Best for: views and exploring 

Ksar Hallouf

The Ksour of Tataouine Travel Tips

How to reach the Ksour of Tataouine

Tataouine is a city located in southeastern Tunisia and is the gateway to the Ksour of Tataouine. There are several ways to reach Tataouine

From Tunis: There are long-distance buses that operate between Tunis and Tataouine ( 7 – 8 hours ). You can also take the train from Tunis to Gabes. Gabes is still 150 kilometers from Tataouine, but there are frequent minivans and Louages ( 2 hours). Louages are shared taxis that operate on standard routes between cities and towns. They are a cost-effective way to travel in Tunisia.

The train is great for the long distance between Tunis and Tataouine

How to get around the Ksour of Tataouine

Unfortunately public transport around Tataouine is not available. Once in Tataouine it is best to have your own car to explore the area. Most of the sights are not in Tataouine itself, but in the surrounding areas. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to visit the Ksour of Tataouine at your own pace.

You can also consider hiring a taxi for the day and include several ksour in the area. I can also recommend a visit to the ancient Berber villages of Chenini, Douiret and Guermassa.

Where to stay in Tataouine

I stayed in Dar Essadeg. A very nice apartment with an incredibly friendly owner. It almost feels like a homestay as the owner and his family stay in the buildings that surround the nice garden courtyard.

When to Visit the Ksour of Tataouine

The best time to visit the Ksour of Tataouine is during the spring (March to May) or the fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and comfortable. During these seasons, temperatures are usually in the mid-20s Celsius (70s Fahrenheit), and there is less humidity and rainfall.

Summer (June to August) can be extremely hot, with temperatures reaching the high 40s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit). Due to climate change there is an increase in heatwaves and droughts during this time. 

Winter (December to February) can be rainy, with temperatures ranging from 15-20 Celsius (50s Fahrenheit). However, it is a great time if you prefer cooler temperatures.

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