Dar Bibine is quite simply the most lovely place I have ever stayed. Tucked away down a side street in a quiet village on the relaxed island of Djerba, it is run by two welcoming Belgian expats with a true love for their adopted homeland. We arrived in the wee hours following a very late flight from London via Tunis and despite the late hour were welcomed with continental kisses through the bougainvillea draped doorway into a white and blue fairyland lit with candles and scented with jasmine and orange blossom by both Isabelle and Gerard who dealt with our luggage and even offered to pay the taxi for us and add it to our bill to ensure we weren't cheated.
Gerard is an architect and his eye for design comes through; four beautifully decorated rooms surround a small but perfectly formed swimming pool while above the roof has been converted into a relaxing space to eat, sunbathe, read, or quietly cuddle (the last made possible by the area being divided into sections with flowing drapes and bountiful bougainvillea.) Isabelle is an accomplished cook and often came and found us while we relaxed in the sun to deliver tasty snacks (cool melon, tangy cheeses, olives) or cold beers. The building is situated not far from the village mosque and the calls of the muezzin drift across the walls and into the courtyard without being loud enough to cause disturbance. One side of the guest house is also bordered by a Jewish synagogue (Djerba has an ancient tradition of Islam and Judaism peacefully coexisting) and it was truly magical one Friday evening to sit as the moon rose and listen to both the muezzin calling and the gentlemen of the synagogue sharing their respective faiths in their steady tones across the evening air.
The hotel provides breakfast, with options to your taste but can include fried eggs in the shape of fish, with dots of fiery hot sauce for bubbles, or the really delicious chocolate cous cous and tiny pastries, always accompanied by very strong coffee and cold orange juice. Evening meals, also prepared after a discussion of your tastes, can be provided (and anyone staying there should absolutely do so one evening) for an extremely reasonable extra cost, given the quality of the food. Choice in the village itself is limited but taxis are cheap, reliable and readily available and the main towns on the island are only a very short drive away.
A highlight for us was the tour of the island which Isabelle arranged for us with Faisal, a lively native who managed to speak bits of English, French, German and Italian - often in one sentence! He spent several hours showing us sights including Roman ruins, underground mosques and potteries (the heat made working and praying underground a necessity in times past) and even climbed trees to retrieve dates, olives and pomegranates for us to sample claiming (as he did about nearly everything) that these were the best available tout le mondo! At the end of the tour we were so enchanted we ended up paying him nearly triple what he had requested, certainly the best value £40 I have ever spent. I did consider suggesting Faisal as a tip himself but suspect he doesn't have a website and might need to be contacted by friends of friends (he was that type of chap).
A good tip would be to go prepared to exercise any lingering school French. Isabelle has excellent English but the locals have almost none and we found ourselves racking our brains for long forgotten vocabulary to describe what we wanted. That said, everyone was extremely friendly and patient and rather delighted to be muddling through with us.
Our visit to Djerba was so excellent that we have often said that we aren't sure we'd want to return in case it was all a dream.
Rue Abdel Wahab 7, Erriadh, Djerba
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