Guermassa - Atlas Obscura

Guermassa is an abandoned village perched on top of the Dahar mountains in Tunisia. The village surrounds a mountaintop, spreads over a ridge, and continues around the slopes of the adjacent mountain. The view from the top is breathtaking, but in the past, it also served a practical purpose. Villagers used the outlook to their advantage, spotting potential invaders from miles away. The fortification built around the village made it all but impregnable. This type of fortified village is not uncommon in the region, but Guermassa is particularly stunning.

The dwellings are partly carved into, and built from, the surrounding rock. Dwellings were excavated from softer rock sandwiched between two harder layers, reinforcing the structures and creating smooth floors and ceilings. Inside, the living space is dedicated to different functions, including a cooking space and sleeping quarters. Each dwelling has a fenced-in courtyard along the well-defined pathways that connect the entire village.

Archaeologists estimate that Guermassa was founded in the 12th century. The original inhabitants were Amazigh, Indigenous peoples living in the Maghreb region of North Africa prior to the arrival of Arabs. In fact, the fortification of the village was intended to ward off attacks from Arab forces. 

Guermassa was abandoned around the 1970s, when President Bourguiba introduced a modernization program. One of the aims of this program was the relocation of people living in these types of villages to more “modern” dwellings.

Today, the remains of the abandoned village still stand, including a children’s cemetery and engravings and inscriptions commemorating marriages.

Know Before You Go

The town is open to the public and can be reached by car, on foot, or ATV. 

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January 29, 2024

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