Welcome to Metlaoui & the Seldja Gorge
Built in 1910, the Lezard Rouge was once used by the bey of Tunis for journeys between Tunis and his summer palace at Hammam Lif. It was given a complete refit by the national railway company SNCFT in 1995, and put back to work transporting tourists, if not in style at least in a modicum of comfort. Unfortunately the chairs and couches look like they were the same ones used in the time of the bey. The scenery – several gorges featuring weird and wonderful rock formations following the path carved out by the Oued Seldja – is dramatic enough to warrant the trip.
The two-hour return journey leaves Metlaoui at 10.30am on Monday, Friday and Sunday and at 10am on Tuesday and Thursday from 1 May to 30 September. However, you should definitely contact the Bureau de Lezard Rouge or the tourist office in Tozeur to check that the train is running; reservations are highly recommended. The return fare is TD20. Tour companies in Tozeur offer the trip on the Lezard Rouge as a half-day tour for TD45, which is probably the best option.
The only acceptable lodging option in Metlaoui is Hôtel Selja, on the Gafsa road near the turning for the Lezard Rouge (it’s easily spotted for its exterior of ‘Gafsa’ brick). Rooms are fair quality for the location, and there’s a restaurant and bar.
All transport between Gafsa and Tozeur passes through Metlaoui and there are regular louages to Gafsa and Tozeur.