Guellala Pottery

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Guellala is a tiny village on the south coast renowned for pottery. Workshops line main street all with displays of pots outside and stuck to the walls to attract the tourist trade. Traditionally the workshops (Harouts) were long barrel like room built half underground for insulation. The triangular front extended well beyond the walls and there were buttresses along the outer walls. Many are now abandoned but we did pass one which was still working on the road from Ajim to Guellala.

We had an interesting visit to a working pottery. Clay is still mined on site. Steps lead down to a 25m deep shaft as the clay above this level is crystalline and no good for pots. This leads to a long tunnel where the clay is taken from. The clay is mixed with water; fresh water gives a red colour, salt water turns clay white. This is the traditional colour of pottery found in most Tunisian households.

Pots are made on a potters wheel. Small pots are left 3-7 days to dry in the shade. Larger pots take 20 days. The kiln is fired up using palm leaves (usually every 2 months) and pots are fired at 1000KC for four days. The kiln takes another three days to cool before the pots cool down.

The brightly coloured pottery seen on sale throughout Tunisia is geared to the tourist market. Pots are painted by hand by local women, glazed and then fired in an electric kiln at 900KC. The ‘magic camel’ is a popular tourist souvenir. This is a jug with a camel’s head spout. There are holes in the top and bottom. Water can be poured into the holes but will not run out, even if the camel is turned. Liquid will only run out of the spout. Another popular pot is the secret sweet jar. This has a jagged cut top which can only be replaced one way ( for those in the know, there are two tiny marks to line up). Thieves stealing sweets are caught out as they can’t replace the top properly.

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