The road of Margoum
The south-eastern region of Tunisia extends between the sea gulf of the south of Gabes and the peninsula of Zarzis, Beban, as well as the island of Djerba in the east to Jabal Damar. This region also extends eastward to the Libyan borders. From the east, this geographical unity includes a mountain chain, namely the Jaffara plain. From the west, the heights of al-Zahir spread westward to the desert dunes called “Al-Katra”. This geographical diversity paved the way for the emergence of a multitude of lifestyles and cultures ranging between “Bedouin”, natives, and others named “Semi-nomadic”.
The “Bedouin” lifestyle is basically characterized by breeding animals to produce wool, hair, lint, and hides which get consumed by Native people or get exchanged with other products either brought from other regions or imported. The inhabitants of the region are also known by textile industries namely surface fabric belonging originally to the “Bedouins” and horizontal fabric woven in horizontal patterns which mainly originate from the natives.
This diversity in the area has implicated diversification in local crafts and industries. Surely, “El Margoum” industry in the region, especially its well-known expansion between Garmasa, Ghamrasen, Chenini, Douirat, and the surrounding mountainous villages was affected and altered by the trading routes of the region such as the trading route to the African Sahara. Egypt and the Levant were a transit point between Africa and the southern Sahara. Moreover, Contact was also granted through a third direction, which is Europe through the ports of Sicily in specific.
In addition, another trading route is noteworthy which is the route through the southwest, including the country of Nafzawa, El Jerid, the northern route of Gabes, to Tarshish, Kairouan, Hadrim, Mahdia, and others. These roads were pivotal in the commercial exchanges of “El Margoum” industry as well as other local textiles that some of which were altered and modified in a way that suits the needs of population groups such as residents of the coast, Djerba, animals breeders, and others.
In fact, the process of searching for ways and methods of valuing the economic resources of the southeast region seems to start basically from the valuation of the existing economic resources which are based on a rich, whether tangible or intangible history and heritage.
Indeed, this is further confirmed by the region’s local inhabitants who proved their determination and desire to protect, care and preserve their textile heritage, despite all of the challenging obstacles and the fierce economic competition that has weakened and marginalized traditional industries and crafts.
Dr. Mohamed Najib Boutaleb: a Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Tunis