Matmata is a small Berber speaking town in southern Tunisia. Some of the local Berber residents live in traditional underground “troglodyte” structures. In 2004 it had a population of 2,116.
The structures typical for the village are created by digging a large pit in the ground. Around the perimeter of this pit artificial caves are then dug to be used as rooms, with some homes comprising multiple pits, connected by trench-like passageways.
It was not generally known until 1969 that there were regular settlements in this area besides wandering nomadic tribes.
That year, intensive rains that lasted for 22 days inundated the troglodyte homes and caused many of them to collapse. In order to get help from the authorities, a delegation was sent to the community center of the region in the town of Gabès. The visit came as a surprise, but help was provided, and the above-ground settlement of Matmâta was built. However, most of the people continued their lives in re-built underground homes, and only a few of the families moved to the new surface dwellings.
Today, Matmata is a popular tourist attraction, and most of the population lives on tourism and folklore exhibitions in their homes.