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Occupation mode

In Djerba, there is no important population centre or a village properly speaking. As the inhabitants are dispersed, the grouping in village the way it exists today is rather administrative and not real. This is the case in the two commercial and administrative centres: Houmet Essoug and Midoun. “Here, there is no separated town or countryside. It is the interpenetration of these two types of population: a sort of diluted suburbs.” [S.E.Tlatli, The Island of Lotophagi]
The name of these groups is composed of one or many words generally preceded by the word houmet, neighbourhood, while the two neighbourhoods Hara Kébira and Hara Esghira present the habitual aspect of Jewish neighbourhoods: narrow alleys with a depthless perspective.
Generally, grouped habitations are justified by the rarity of water points while dispersed habitations indicate their abundance. This contrasts with the Djerbian reality for which the dispersion of cultivable lands, land division, and the attachment of the Djerbian to his land contributed to this residential spreading.
The dispersion of mosques is also typical of this island. In Djerba, praying places remained generally isolated providing easy access for the faithful. Consequently, a scattering of religious buildings can be noted, while, most frequently all over the world, places of cult have the effect of bringing together the population and crystallizing the village around the steeple or the minaret. In Djerba, the majority of the 266 mosques stand isolated in flatland. Consequently, these religious buildings have rarely become a centre of a hamlet or a locality.
The Djerbians, like any other islanders, revere the sea but also justifiably fear it. That is why the coasts are not populated with groups of habitations which are all set back inside the island. On the contrary, some mosques and bordjs (watchtowers) with a utilitarian and defensive character rise up along the 125Km of Djerbian coast.

The Menzel is a notion that is never understood by a foreigner. It is not the neighbourhood, not the tribe, or the family. It is a mixture of all these. This typical notion of the island is defined as a mode of establishment expressing the originality of the traditional Djerbian habitation. It is organized under different constituents the main of which are the house or the houch, the place of work or the workshop, the place of cult and culture which is the mosque and the mederssa, the garden or the jenen, and the isolated house of guests or mekhzen eddiyaf.


The Menzel which is a true Djerbian life cell is destined to maintain the running of daily multiple activities. It rises up under the form of an enclosed garden with planted trees and comprising one or many houses. The inhabitants of each Menzel live independently and are self-sufficient thanks to their agricultural and hand-made resources.
- Ajim: it is the most important port in the island’s history and the place of anchorage of the ferry actually connecting the island to the continent. It is a small agricultural locality where the economy is based on the sea and fishing. This locality is changing its lifestyle.
- Midoun: it is the second urban centre of the island after Houmet Essoug. It is actually animated by its touristic vocation while it has been reputed, for decades, for its fertile lands where a major part of the touristic zone is located. Its population is a mixture of foreigners and Tunisians coming from the continent to work in the hotels of Djerba.


- Houmet Essoug: it is the biggest and the oldest great agglomeration of the island, heir of Meninx. It is the economic and administrative centre of the island. In spite of the urban growth that the town witnessed with time, the ancient centre remained the beating heart of the island. This ancient core is a tissue of a Medinal type where the narrowness and the sinuosity of the streets and alleys allow only pedestrian traffic. Its arrangement is characterized by a succession of small squares related to each other and considered as urban patios constituting a place of conviviality and social practices. The village itself offers nothing special. It is a slightly confused agglomeration of houses where the emigrant population gathered.


 
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