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The red lizard and the gorges of Selja

Gorges of Selja

In the south of Tunisia, the desert goes up suddenly. Inaccessible moutains raise a barrier against the sand desert and shelter the oasis of the mountains.

The red and pink rocks are split by canyons, like the mysterious gorges of Selja. According to the legend, a warrior cut this fault with his sword to create a nuptial bed for his princess.

Nowadays, the only way to visit the gorges of Selja is by train. But not any kind of train !



The red lizard is a "Belle époque" train, which was given to the Bey of Tunisia during the French protectorate.

The red lizard leaves every day around 10 am from the station of Meltaoui.

This industrial center is fourishing thanks to the working of phosphates.

Train on its way

Once on board of the red train, you forget everything.

The train inches through narrow passages and tunnels dug into the gorges.

At times, the rock faces seem to shut to the point of hiding the sky.

last coach


Around the oued, some palm trees cast green lightnings in the blood-red canyon.

Unfortunately, the river has been black for a few years because of the phophate factories downstream.

Therefore, be careful: swimming strictly forbidden! However, the rest of the landscape is intact. A very solitary place that makes you travel in space and time.

Especially when there is western music in the coaches full of old furniture. All of a sudden, a doubt is raised: are we in Tunisia or in the wild west?

Fabio Benedetti-Valentini ©


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