Djerba, TUNISIA – My hometown Guellala is a place of wonders, where love, compassion and kindness prevail.
It’s a place that means so much to me, and even though I have never actually lived there, I think of it as home. It’s a small town on the beautiful island of Djerba, an island located off the coast of my country of origin, Tunisia.
And among all the cities I have visited, among all the places and cities I have once called “home,” there was never a place that was so close to my heart.
In fact, I am deeply connected to my hometown. I love the kind-hearted people there, the beautiful traditions that were passed along from generation to generation, our traditional weddings where women wear their finest gold jewelry and their most elegant traditional dresses and Chelha, the Berber language they still speak with pride.
I love how unique Guellala is, how different the lifestyle is in a world full of people who dress the same, speak the same and love the same things.
And no matter how far I move away or how long I stay away, Guellala will always have a special place in my heart. It is the place where I made my first memories, countless moments that will stay with me forever.
I had fantastic experiences there that shaped me as a whole: spending late nights with my cousins on top of the roof waiting for the sunrise to come, sleeping outside on the terrace and gazing up at the big night sky, watching the stars twinkle as the night passes. I remember the milky moon sitting high above the sea while I listened to my grandma tell stories with beautiful morals and valuable lessons that made me think, reflect, contemplate and learn.
Guellala is simply a place of serenity, of peace, harmony, and tranquility. There, I can breathe the fresh air far away from the polluted city, smell the sea and hear the screams and laughs of kids playing outside. It always makes me feel a certain way and reminds me of the delightful and unforgettable moments spent there. That’s what makes Guellala my most beloved place and the one that captured my heart.
Although I have lived in cities all my life, the countryside has always fascinated me. On this small island of Djerba, I saw my love for nature grow: the fields, the farms, the palm and olive trees here and there and the beautiful sea that we could gaze at from my grandma’s house. It all makes Guellala so unique, yet so ordinary.
Having said that, living in Djerba might seem hard at first glance, just like living on any other island might seem difficult. But I believe that even though the sun is too hot, the sand is everywhere, and the traditional houses are inconvenient to rain and bad weather, that is what makes Djerba, Djerba and that is what makes it outstanding.
Because even though Djerba is generally known for the jet skis, the private beaches, luxurious hotels and the tanning, those were never my favorite things about the island.
To me, what makes the beauty of Djerba is my family, our culture, our traditions, our language, our customs and mores but most importantly, the lessons it taught me and the values it conveyed to me. Djerba shaped my soul and taught me what most people learn too late: gratitude, compassion, humility, and dedication.
That is why no matter where I go or where life takes me, I’ll always carry it with me, somewhere deep in my heart.
With that said, it’s difficult to describe Guellala in a word or two. Hearing the chirping of birds early in the morning, or smelling the rain in the air, seeing the sun glowing and olive trees standing with pride, make me not only realize but admire how heavenly Djerba actually is, while being so natural and artless.
Calling this place “exceptional” would be a hyperbole, but saying “beautiful” would be an understatement. Djerba is simply absorbing. It is unique, but somehow banal and ordinary. It exudes confidence, it exudes grace and makes the most natural landscapes sublime.
Djerba. That is my hometown.
Lina Temzini is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.