Tozeur and the other traditional oases like it have
survived for over two thousand years by tapping shallow underground
water supplies, which are replenished annually by rains in the mountains.
But with the appearance of tourist hotels, water demand is such
that deep fossil water is now being extracted (10,000 years old,
and it tastes it), and this will eventually run out.
There are also new, efficient date palm plantations
appearing in the region, which, with less dense planting, modern
cultivation methods, and heavy reliance on deep wells, achieve four
times the yield. So although Tozeur has survived since antiquity
and seems likely to remain relatively untouched by the modern world
for a while yet, its time will eventually be up.
Are date palms worth growing by European palm enthusiasts?
Young specimens may look a little unexciting, but I was very taken
by the handsome blue cultivars spotted at the Gros Pin nursery in
the south of France during the EPS/Fous 1994 summer jaunt. It is
even possible that Phoenix dactylifera could be grown outdoors here
if kept dry in winter. After all, in its natural habitat, the date
palm almost certainly experiences lower minimum temperatures than
any other species of Phoenix.