Gabes - Encyclopedia




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GABES, a town of Tunisia, at the head of the gulf of the same name, and 70 m. by sea S.W. of Sfax. It occupies the site of the Tacape of the Romans and consists of an open port and European quarter and several small Arab towns built in an oasis of date palms. This oasis is copiously watered by a stream called the Wad Gabes. The European quarter is situated on the right bank of the Wad near its mouth, and adjacent are the Arab towns of Jara and Menzel. The houses of the native towns are built largely of dressed stones and broken columns from the ruins of Tacape. Gabes is the military headquarters for southern Tunisia. The population of the oasis is about 20,000, including some 150o Europeans. There is a considerable export trade in dates.

Gabes lies at the head of the shat country of Tunisia and is intimately connected with the scheme of Commandant Roudaire to create a Saharan sea by making a channel from the Mediterranean to these shats (large salt lakes below the level of the sea). Roudaire proposed to cut a canal through the belt of high ground between Gabes and the shats, and fixed on Wad Melah, a spot To m. N. of Gabes, for the sea end of the channel (see Sahara). The company formed to execute his project became simply an agricultural concern and by the sinking of artesian wells created an oasis of olive and palm trees.

The Gulf of Gabes, the Syrtis Minor of the ancients, is a semicircular shallow indentation of the Mediterranean, about 50 m. across from the Kerkenna Islands, opposite Sfax on its northern shore, to Jerba Island, which lies at its southern end. The waters of the gulf abound in fish and sponge.

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