Tunisia / Geography /
Other spelling: Djerba
Island in Tunisia with 110,000 inhabitants (2003 estimate), 27 km from west to east and 26 km from north to south, all together 510 kmē. It is situated in the southern part of the country, in the Gulf of Gabes.
Typical country mosque of Jerba, Tunisia.
The Borj el-Kebir, or Great Fortress, protecting the largest settlements of Jerba.
Quarter of Houmt Souq.
Jerba is very flat, and extensive agriculture is found anywhere on it. The economy is based upon the production of dates, figs and olives, the production of olive oil, the fishing of sponges, oyster and octopus. Small industries produce pottery, jewellery and clothes. Over recent decades, tourism has grown into the single most important source of revenue for the island.
The main town is Houmt Souq with 25,000 inhabitants (2003 estimate), on the northwestern coastline, which also has an international airport. Ajim with 5,000 inhabitants (2003 estimate) on the southern coast is the main port. The second largest city is El May in the centre with 15,000 inhabitants.
Jerba is said to have more than 200 mosques, many built in a distinct style, soft walls and corners, whitewashed and with minarets of phallic shapes.
The population today are mainly Sunni Muslims, but there still exists a community of Ibadi Muslims around the village of Guellela, a community of Jews in the centre and a community of Christians in Houmt Souq.
Jerba is mentioned by Homer, probably in the 9th century BCE, as the land of the Lotus-Eaters.
8th century: Carthaginians establish trade stations on Jerba.
2nd century BCE: Roman traders build a trade station called Meninx on the southern shores of Jerba, exporting cloth dyed imperial purple with the Murex shellfish.
655 CE: Conquered by the Muslim Arabs, as a dependency of Tunis and Kairouan. This is met with great resistance from the local population.
740: The population of Jerba supports the Kharijite rebellion.
761: Jerba becomes part of the Berber controlled Ibadi state of the Rustamids.
944: Jerba resists the takeover of the Fatimids.
1047: Rebellion against the Zirids, who controlled Tunisia.
1135: Jerba is invaded by the Christian king of Sicily, Roger 2, who massacred and enslaved large parts of the population.
1159: Conquered by the Almohads.
1284: Conquered by the Christian king of Aragon (now in Spain).
1310: Rebellion against the Christian lords, results in the massacre or enslavement of 75% of the local population.
1333: With an Aragon weakened from internal rebellion, the people of Jerba regains their independence.
15th century: Over long periods in this century, Jerba enjoys independence, ruled by the Al Samumni family.
16th century: Pirates settle at Jerba.
1560: Jerba comes under control of the Ottoman Empire.
18th century: Jerba becomes an important trading post for slaves.
1840's: Immigration from European countries like Greece, Italy and Malta.
1881: French troops take over Jerba, and are welcomed by the locals, expecting protection from their traditional enemies in mainland Tunisia.