UNESCO has recently collaborated with a Tunisian association, Atlel, to set up an action program for the protection and preservation of neglected Roman sites in Deguech, Tozeur.
Deguech is located in southwestern Tunisia on the edge of Chott el Jerid, an endorheic salt lake in the middle of the Sahara desert. It is an oasis town surrounded by mountains, with a population just over 26,000 people.
Atlel association is starting excavation works in collaboration with UNESCO and the National Institute of Heritage in Tunis to draw attention to these ruins. The monuments that will be protected include Castilia - an entrance to a Roman city that excavations might unveil, and Seven Wells - a Roman site consisting of wells used for irrigation and agriculture. The site is located next to an industrial zone, and has been unprotected since the 1990s.
Atlel will try to integrate the Roman sites in M'hassen and Deguech to the touristic and cultural tours of the region to aid in job creation. Atlel is also attempting to protect Islamic monuments, such as Ezzarkane Mosque - one of the oldest mausoleums in the region of Djerid, built in the eighth century during the Arab conquest of North Africa.
UNESCO is allocating 100,000 Tunisian dinars to restoration and maintenance works. These works include the reconstruction of some walls and the preparation of hiking tracks to ease access to the sites.