It is often seen as simply a beach destination, but I found Tunisia to be a Pandora’s box full of surprises for those who are in for an adventure on its sandy shores. This country very well represents the whole of North Africa gift-wrapped in an exotic fashion, with its wide-spreading massive Sahara dunes, fascinating mammoth fossils and ruins and laid-back cities that house some extensive, colourful ‘souks’ which are open marketplaces.
The capital of Tunisia is the city of Tunis and the major language in this country is Arabic, with a significant proportion of people speaking French and English. The dominant religion in this beautiful country is Islam with a whopping percentage of 98% with the rest of the people being either Jews or Christians. It is a first Islamic democratic country.
Tunisia was considered to be the bread-bowl for Rome at one point in history. One can witness the cultural wealth that the Roman-civilization had left behind in Tunisia. But the magnificence and royalty of the Arab Empires has bestowed the country with some resplendent Islamic architecture which can be seen in many of its famous monuments.
I present to you a detailed itinerary of my visit to this amazing country and the splendid places which are a must-see while in Tunisia.
November 01, 2016 : Arrival at the Tunis-SidiBou Said Village
I arrived at the Tunis International airport at 1530 hours and was assisted to get to my place of accommodation. I couldn’t wait to get out of the hotel and explore the city of Tunis. The first place on my itinerary was the ‘Tunis SidiBou Said’ village.
I arrived at the beautiful and picturesque white village and quite honestly it took my breath away. The architecture, here in this village, is mostly influenced by Andalusian people who had settled in this area in the early 15th and 16th century, and is inexplicably wonderful to witness. After a while of walking around in the village and soaking in the architecture, stopping to pack some exquisite souvenirs from the village, I stopped to have a cuppa at one of the corner cafés and just sat there looking at the village with its white-washed walls, bright blue doors and the splendid Mediterranean Sea. Post this wonderful visit, I wrapped up a wonderful dinner at my hotel in the main city.
November 02, 2016: Visit to Carthage Site
After breakfast departure to the historic site of Carthage . Visit of the most important roman site in Tunisia : Punic city of Carthage. Spread throughout the modern day suburb of Tunis; visit the ancient sites of Bysra Hill, the Roman Theatre, Antoine Baths, the Sanctuary of the Trophet and the location of the ancient Roman port. Carthage was built on a promontory with inlets to the sea to the north and south. The city's location made it master of the Mediterranean's maritime trade. All ships crossing the sea had to pass between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia, where Carthage was built, affording it great power and influence.Two large, artificial harbors were built within the city, one for harboring the city's massive navy of 220 warships and the other for mercantile trade.
A walled tower overlooked both harbors.The city had massive walls, 23 miles (37 kilometres) in length, longer than the walls of comparable cities. Most of the walls were located on the shore and thus could be less impressive, as Carthaginian control of the sea made attack from that direction difficult. Continuation to Bardo National Museum : Housed in a former palace of the Ottoman Bey, the Bardo houses a world-class collection of mosaics, along with many remains found in sites throughout Tunisia. The Bardo visit will help provide some of the historical groundwork for your subsequent days in Tunisia. Continuing with your touring of the Tunis area, adding to whatever you have seen thus far, your touring should will also include the historic heart of Tunis, the medina. You will have a walking tour to get a sense of some of the architecture and visit some of the old properties that are being restored. You can also take time to browse within the alleyways of the souk.
November 03, 2016 :Kairouan-Gafsa-Tozeur
After breakfast on the next day, I went onto visit the city of Kairounan.With ample mosques, madrassas and plenty of tombs, the city ofKairouan is considered to be a holy city. It stands to be the fourth most important city for those of Islamic faith. The Arabic architecture is awe-inspiring and one can see in any direction to find the skyline, full of beautiful minarets and majestic domes. One of the unique sites of this city is theMedina that steals the show. It was declared a world-heritage monument by UNSECO and I totally understand why it deserves that title. Apart from the sheer holy aura of this place, I was pleasantly lost in its narrow maze-like lanes lined with colourful beautiful houses on both sides of the lane.
After my visit in Kairounan, I proceeded to Gafsa for a heavy, delicious local lunch. Post my lunch, I proceeded to Tozeur where I wrapped that gorgeous day with a dinner in my hotel in Tozeur.
November 04, 2016 : Visit to The Sahara
While in Tunisia, one needs to have a signature, quintessential Saharan adventure. Most begin in the neighbouring oasis towns and cities whichare centres of Saharan culture. These places where the architecture seems to naturally rise from the desert are prime centres which attract the maximum number of tourists. People find these cities marvellous and the slow pace of life has changed little in centuries, which make it a vacation haven.
In order to explore the great Saharan desert, there are two major means of transport. A slow glide across the sands astride a camel, in my opinion, is the best option. It gives you a feeling of travelling on a camel, just like in the common folklores and also helps the local business. Tourists and travellers take it easy and adapt slowly to the unforgiving climate of the desert- hence allowing one, considerable time to appreciate everything around them intricately and pay attention to small details of this magnificent terrain which is one-of-a-kind.
In a 4WD expedition or a buggy ride- tourists and travellers have an option of scaling more and more areas of the Sahara and also traversing the dunes, with their ups-and-downs is an adventure in itself.
November 05, 2016 :DouzMatmata-El-Jem-Sousse
In the morning, I departed from the neighbouring city of Douz to the Matmata area with its semi-arid desert landscape. We also crossed the Chott El-jerid, which is the biggest salt water lake in the the desert of Sahara, on our way to Matmata. In a glance, I realised that I have seen this area before, at the same time my efficient Tunisian guide told me that a lot of scenes from the Mega-movie-‘Star Wars’ was actuallyfilmed here. To dwelve further into this, this area was seen as Luke Skywalker’s planet, meaning that it attracts thousands of movie buffs on an annual basis.
From matmata, I proceed onto El Jem. A prominent place from the roman times here, the most unique thing to see here is the amphitheatre, which has chilling similarities to the Colosseum of Rome. While touring this amphitheatre, I also had a chance to visit the El-Jem museum and witness amazing Mosaic art collection.
From El-Jem, we drove onto the city of Sousse, which is Tunisia’s third largest city. Dinner and accommodation was in the city of Sousse.
November 06, 2016 : Sousse-Hammamet
Next morning, after a great breakfast in my hotel in Sousse, I went onto explore this amazing city with its breath-taking beaches, sun-kissed yet moderate climate, a magnificent ‘Medina’, unique cafés which serve some great food and a much-needed cuppa. While being in the area, if you cross the road, you end up at the beach! Yes! It’s that near and gorgeous I must add. Continuing from Sousse, we headed for Hammamet.
This area of Hammamet was a prime one for me on my itinerary. How could it not be? I got to witness the ‘Tunisian Saint Tropez’- an ancient Spanish fort which still stands as a prime influence for the revered painter – Paul Klee. The fort is massive and offers a gorgeous view from its top. Witnessing this stunning piece of architecture truly was a cherry on the top.
Post a long day, we retired at a hotel in Hammamet and had a great dinner.
November 07, 2016 : Departure
In the morning, after a breakfast, I headed on from the city of Hammamet to the capital city of Tunis. It was a beautiful hour-long drive and I truly got to soak in every last bit of Tunisia.
It was such a pleasure visiting this country, which not only has such an extensive history, but also breath-taking architecture which reeks of decades of ancient civilisations. These civilizations have left a significant imprint on its cities and with the people, being so friendly and helpful, one is surely bound to come back for second go at it!