A region and its history.


          Talking about Tunisia, Roman writer Pliny explained: “Here under exceptionally tall palm trees grow olive trees, under the olive trees grow fig trees, under the fig trees grow pomegranate trees and below them vines. And under the vines cereals are sown, to be followed by legumes, then vegetables, all in the same year, and all feeding on the shade provided by another tree or plant.”
          This Garden of Eden, a true heaven on earth, produced a way of eating forming the basis of the Mediterranean diet. Already at the time, fruit, vegetables, legumes and olive oil featured prominently in the daily diet of the Phoenicians in the Middle East and of the Carthaginians in North Africa.

  Tunisian oil from Carthage onwards

       Since as long ago as Carthage, in other words, for almost thirty centuries, the history of Tunisia and that of the olive tree have been closely linked.
      After affirming its maritime prosperity under the defining influence of the Magon family, namely from 550 to 450 BC, the Carthaginian aristocracy turned inland and devised sophisticated crop-growing systems. Vines and olive trees were planted, as well as cereals.
    
After the Roman conquest, Carthage became known as the province of Africa - corresponding to the territory of present-day Tunisia - and experienced one of the most extraordinary developments of the entire Empire.
Olive trees were cultivated on a large scale, making Africa the leading oil producer in the Mediterranean world.
Tacitus, the first century Roman historian, mentioned at the time that “the production of the province of Africa accounts for most of the oil in which the everyday fare of the Roman Empire bathes."

Tebourba, an agricultural tradition
    “Tebourba is one of a few towns in Tunisia whose population has a quite special original character. It is composed almost entirely of descendants of the Moors driven out of Andalucia who settled on the site of the old Tuburbum Minus, on the left bank of the Medjerda.
The district of Tebourba is rich and fertile. It produces large amounts of cereals; there are abundant crops of olives, market gardening (truck farming) is highly developed and very varied.”

      
(E. Lecore-Carpentier - L'Indicateur Tunisien - Annuaire des administrations de la régence de Tunis - Guide du commerce, de l'industrie de l'agriculture et des touristes. 1905.)
Olive oil in Tebourba

          From antiquity, the plain and the hills alongside the right bank of the Medjerda were planted with olive trees when Tebourba was called Tuburbum Minus.
“During recent clearing work carried out on the El-Mahrine estate, a Roman farm was discovered. It is located at the top of the small Bordj-el-Djerbi hill. The building unearthed, which appears to be an oil mill, is unfortunately too badly preserved.” (L. Poinssot, R. Lantier - Bulletin archéologique, Paris, 1923)

         The search made at this spot, in the Mahjoub family's olive grove, led to the finding of all the stones of an ancient olive oil press, which w as then reconstructed exactly as it had been.