Sights

The picturesque ruins of Chenini's original kalaa (hill fort) dating from the 12th century, stand at the junction of two ridges. The settlement tumbles down and out from this point, built into the rock along a series of small terraces that leads around the steep hillside.

The houses consist of cave rooms with a fenced front courtyard containing one or two more rooms. Highlights include doors made from palm trunk, and the interiors of some cave rooms still containing the faded remnants of decorative paintwork and carvings on the roof. Some of the doorways here are so small they require a contortionist’s flexibility to enter.

The ksar (traditional fortified granary) is still used to store grain, and the village even retains a few occupants (unlike the other villages), although most of Chenini’s inhabitants have moved to the modern settlement of Nouvelle Chenini on the northern side of the hill.

Beyond Chenini's white mosque, a 20-minute walk leads to another mosque and a series of strange 5m-long grave mounds, known locally as the graves of the Seven Sleepers. According to local legend, seven Christians (and a dog) went into hiding in a nearby cave to escape persecution by the Romans. They slept for 400 years and awoke to find a world of Islam. While they had slept, their bodies had continued to grow until they were 4m tall. They awoke only to die almost immediately. To compensate, the story goes, before dying, the men converted to Islam, assuring them their place in paradise.