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Djerba, Tunisia: a haven of minimalism

Mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, praised by Gustave Flaubert, the island of Djerba in southern Tunisia has much to offer. However, it is not only the natural beauty of the island that has attracted the attention of visitors in recent years. It also has a very intriguing feature: many of its buildings are entirely white and minimalist. This is no coincidence.


Sidi Yati Mosque, Djerba.

More than just architecture

Most of these simplistic white buildings, a striking feature of the island’s architecture, are mosques. But these mosques recall a millennial tradition of coexistence on the shores of the island, since most of them were built by the Ibadites, a religious minority of the country that boasts a rich history in Djerba.



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Une publication partagée par 𝙉1𝙁𝙊𝙐𝙍 (@n1four)

These buildings reflect the theology of the denomination, which emphasizes simplicity rather than ostentatious extravagance. They are generally classified by the Ibadites into five different types: field mosques, scattered throughout the island; underground mosques; madrasas, or educational mosques; coastal watch mosques; and fortified mosques that were used in the island’s defensive system. The largest Ibadite community, who are otherwise neither Sunni nor Shi’a, is now found in Oman, where the group is in the majority, but they are also found in Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, although they are a minority there.


Sidi Yati Mosque, Djerba.

Beyond religion

This style of mosques have dotted the city’s charms and have become very influential in the island’s buildings, even for the non-Ibadite majority. The island’s buildings reflect a trend toward minimalism that has gained popularity over the years. The clean lines, simple, even absent forms, and white color palette are a departure from the ornate styles that dominate in other parts of the country.


Underground mosque, Djerba.

The minimalist, all-white architecture that marks the city has also attracted the attention of foreign visual artists, who have come to the island to capture its wonders and be inspired by the change of scenery it offers.



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Une publication partagée par Yoann CIMIER (@yoanncimier)