The common use of armorial bearings, and the practice of the tournament, may be Oriental in their origin; the latter has its affinities with the equestrian exercises of the Jerid, and the former, though of prehistoric antiquity, may have received a new impulse from contact with the Arabs.
They are smooth depressed areas (in the case of the largest, the Shat el Jerid, lying a few feet below the level of the Mediterranean), which for more than half the year are expanses of dried mud covered with a thick incrustation of white or grey salt.
It would seem probable that at one time these shats (at any rate the Shat el Jerid) were an inlet of the Mediterranean, which by the elevation of a narrow strip of land on the Gulf of Gabes has been cut off from them.
All this region round the shats has been called the "Jerid" from the time of the Arab occupation.
"Jerid" means in Arabic a "palm frond" and inferentially "a palm grove."
The fame of this Belad-el-Jerid, or "Country of the Date Palms," was so exaggerated during the r 7th and 18th centuries that the European geographers extended the designation from this small area in the south of Tunisia to cover much of inner Africa.
With this country of Jerid may be included the island of Jerba, which lies close to the coast of Tunisia in the Gulf of Gabes.
The present writer believes that the date palm was really indigenous to this district of the Jerid, as it is to countries of similar description in southern Morocco, southern Algeria, parts of the Tripolitaine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, southern Persia and north-western India; but that north of the latitude of the Jerid the date did not grow naturally in Mauretania, just as it was foreign to all parts of Europe, in which, as in true North Africa, its presence is due to the hand of man.
To some extent it may be said that true North Africa lies to the north of the Jerid country, which, besides its Saharan, Arabian and Persian affinities, has a touch about it of real Africa, some such touch as may be observed in the valley of the Jordan.
In the oases of the Jerid are found several species of tropical African mammals and two or three of Senegalese birds, and the vegetation seems to have as much affinity with tropical Africa as with Europe.
To the south of the Jerid the country is mainly desert - vast unexplored tracts of shifting sand, with rare oases.
The cheetah lingers in the extreme south of the Jerid; so also does the caracal lynx.
It inhabits the Jerid, and extends thence across the Algerian frontier.
South of the Jebel Aures is another series of salt lakes closely connected with the Shat-el-Jerid (of Tunisia).