The city of Gabès in southern Tunisia is the world’s only oasis located on the seashore. It was a flourishing agricultural and commercial centre in ancient times, as well as under Carthaginian, Byzantine and Arab domination. Nowadays the large phosphate factory in Gabès has turned the oasis into a distressing maritime desert: the air is unbreathable, the water resources have been used up and the impact on agriculture and the health of residents is catastrophic. People suffer from respiratory diseases and fluorosis – for example, Fatma, although barely twenty-three years old, has lost almost all her teeth.
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