Melia El Mouradi
This was a package - I paid about £550 for the whole deal - 7 nights, bed, breakfast and evening meal, including flights.
Excursions, drinks and room service were extra. Clean, nicely furnished and generally pleasant.
This was a package - I paid about £550 for the whole deal - 7 nights, bed, breakfast and evening meal, including flights.
Excursions, drinks and room service were extra. Clean, nicely furnished and generally pleasant.
El Mouradi Douz
4 Sterne 360 Betten
Route Touristique - 4260 Douz B.P. 155
Tel: 002-16-5.860.124/144 Fax: 002-16-5.862.177
Qualities: Hotel de lujo con mucho encanto, pues esta situado
en pleno desierto, rodeado de dunas y palmeras. A parte los servicios que
ofrece te hacen la estancia bien agradable.
The desert accomodation, during Sahara-tour, was a kind of "blind-date" to me. My agent told me the hotel is good but what I've found was above all of my expectations. El Mouradi is excellent hotel, something you do not expect far away from the major seaside touristic areas. In fact, it is much better then the most of the hotels I saw on the seashore of Tunisia. The room is huge and air conditioned with perfect bathroom and great view over nearby desert. The service is among the best I had in whole Tunisia, but most of all, I was fascinated by the pool which is real beauty of the hotel. There is nothing better then refreshing swimming in the pool after long day in the desert. Hotel El Mouradi is highly recommendable.
**A 5 star wonder that somehow only has 4 stars**
I ended up here unexpectedly when I booked a 3 day excursion across Tunisia. Absolutely fantastic! You actually drive along the edge of the Sahara Desert to get here. Your travels here bring you along a desolate wasteland that suddenly opens up to this absolutely heavenly oasis of a luxury hotel. Once inside reveals the truly stunning outdoor swimming pool complex within the compound. Several verandas allow you absolutely breathtaking views of the Sahara. I especially recommend a moonlight peak at the moon playing over the dunes.
Rooms are good and the bathrooms well designed and enhanced by the nice tile interiors. The buffet restaurant is excellent in terms of quality of food, choice and smiling service.
FACILITIES & SERVICES:
* Indoor pool, Sauna and Jacuzzis
* Amazing outdoor pool complex and gardens
* Air conditioning, safe and TV in room
* Non-smoking and garden rooms available
* Full bar
* Baby sitting
* Restaurant & coffee shop
* Business/convention (full) facilities
* Currency exchange
* Souvenir shop
* Tennis court
* Sahara desert and Camel rides on your doorstep
Having checked for the umpteenth time that I have everything, I set off for the station, leaving behind my wallet (very kindly flatmate brought it to me at the station).
Schlep across London to Heathrow (about 1.5 hours) with large travel bag and smaller travel bag.
Get to Heathrow and make it onto flight (am quite impressed with myself for this as it is the first time I've flown alone since St Petersburg back in 1993).
The pilot's announcements come in Arabic, French and English and it is very evident that the hostesses haven't the faintest what he's talking about as their demonstration finishes about 5 sentences before he does.
They are brusquely polite and the food is average (I slice my finger open on the foil packaging).
Talk to Australian couple who have done exactly the same as I have but as yet have no idea where they're staying (oh dear).
Touch down in Tunis 2 hours later - it is about 9pm and too dark to see anything much, but it is warm enough to take coat off and huff and puff a lot with luggage.
We are greeted by our "rep" who presents us with a bottle of water and ushers us onto a coach, where, over the next hour (the time taken to get from Tunis airport to Hammamet Sud) she regales us with names of buildings, and explains to us that the reason Tunis looks like a bomb has dropped on it is that the city is being done up in order to host the Mediterranean games. She also tells us how to make Brik (a local samosa-type delicacy) - I start to wonder if there are hitherto unadvertised cooking facilities at the hotel.
On arrival at the Melia El Mouradi, I am the only person getting off the coach(can this be right? - evidently so). I am greeted by a porter who presents me with a glass of sickly sweet, gaudily coloured something with far too little alcohol in it. He takes my bags upstairs to my room, which is spacious, pleasant, balconied, strongly scented with flower water of some description and stiflingly hot. I fling open as many windows as I can and go to sleep.
Finally we move on to Sidi Bou Said - a picturesque traditional village all done out in white and blue (white keeps the heat out and blue keeps the mossies at bay). Sadly it is so picturesque that the tourists companies have seen fit to equip it with a large car park for the numerous coach trips. Nonetheless the views from this cliffside village are spectacular and the orange trees by the side of the road, the blazing sun and the bouganvillea clambering over the walls makes this a beautiful spot.
I haggle for souvenirs and am terribly pleased to knock quite a lot of money off a couple of my purchases (I am less pleased when I see them for half the price back at the hotel).
Home for tea - I sit staring out towards the sea on my own enjoying the evening and I am approached by two local youths who ask if they can join me. I say yes. They try to sell me jasmine (a local product) and we discuss singing, tourists and what young people do in Tunisia. All very pleasant. The more linguistically coherent of the two turns to me and casually asks if I like sex. I answer jokingly that it depends who with. He then asks if I like sex with men (there's that sign again). I tell him I'm British and we don't talk about sex. He says that if I do, he can show me where to meet people. I insist that I am not interested and make to leave. He tries to get me to sit back down or at least buy him a drink before I go. I leave.
Ali tries to sell me hash and I am not in the mood (not that I would ever have bought any anyway), so I cut short my dinner and go and sulk in my room. Tonight it's "Who wants to be a Millionaire" in Italian. I long for company and nightlife.
I skip breakfast (can't be bothered with Ali sulking at me because I don't want beer with it) and spend the day bronzing (and ultimately lobstering) by the pool. Have an early night as I have to be up at 4:45 the following morning for my desert excursion.
4:45 in the morning (after 2 wake up calls from reception) I am standing watching the horizon turn pink, listening to the sea, feeling the wind on my face and watching the sliver of a crescent moon set slowly. It's times like this that I wish I got up early more often. There is another couple from my hotel going on this trip - we strike up idle conversation - it appears they are unhappy with their room but are being very English and not complaining.
We board the bus and I sleep for a couple of hours. I then hold a somewhat confusing conversation with the girl next to me (who is Tunisian and speaks about 3 words of English). We are doing well until I explain that I am a singer and will be appearing in Pirates of Penzance on teh West End when I return to England. This is where we kinda floundered as I didn't have the French words for pirate (I've since discovered it's pirate...), west or end and she had no idea what operetta is or who Gilbert and Sullivan were. Ah well.
Our first stop is El Djem - the 3rd largest surviving Roman amphitheatre in the world.
This structure is truly magnificent and dominates the little village around it. I found it very odd to watch people going about their ordinairy business with this massive building in the middle of their town.
The amphitheatre was the site of gladiatorial games in the North African Roman Empire and the sheer scale of it is awesome. Our stop was quite short and I think, unless we were being shown round by a guide (which we weren't), once you've seen it you've seen it. Definitely one to do in a morning rather than a whole day.
On further South into the desert. We pass through ever more sparse cactus bordered olive groves and eventually into scrubland - small tufts of grass are pretty much all that grows here. The landscape looks truly barren - it doesn't have the shifting sands beauty of the desert proper - the landscape is rocky and dusty. It is truly rugged and forbidding.
We stop for lunch and take photos of a baby camel for 1 dinar a shot.
After lunch (ubiquitous but nonetheless fantastic couscous), we head on to Matmata.
This settlement is the nearest village to the troglodyte settlements. These people dig large pits in the earth/rock, then dig through one side so that there is an entrance to the bottom of the pit from outside. They then carve out rooms from the inner wall of the pit. This was the inspiration and indeed the setting for the moisture farm in Star Wars Episode IV (the first Star Wars film made).
We are shown a very obliging (and ancient) troglodyte lady's home, including her extremely traditional light fittings and TV arial (there is a small generator up the road). I am very embaressed because I have run out of change and therefore can't tip her.
We have breakfast in the cavernous dining room. The food is decidedly European - mostly Germanic in fact -and the more I see, so are the clientel. I start to wonder if there are any other Anglos here (or indeed any Tunisians...).
At breakfast, I am informed by the gentleman sitting opposite (a German psychologist) that if I go to the right places I will be offered "love" by the local male youths in exchange for a few drinks - perhaps we'll try that later...(perhaps not). Slightly disturbed that I am wandering about with a hitherto unnoticed sign on my forehead, I proceed to our "meet and greet" meeting with the rep.
Our hotel rep is "Sam the man". "Sam the man" is one of 3 people called Sam who work for Panorama in Hammamet and he is the only male one. He outlines the various excursions/add-ons that are at our disposal and gives us contact numbers etc should we get ourselves into difficulty. I meet the other 4 English people at the hotel and spend the rest of the day trying to put sun cream on my own back and roasting slowly on the beach and by the pool. I have a brief dip in both and decide it is very refreshing and that I never ever want to be that cold again. I order a room service lunch and go for an evening meal in the canteen. The food is confusing as it seems to cater for as many tastes as possible without telling you what is meant to go with what (you are offered spaghetti with meat stew and cauliflower cheese for example). Whilst the food is included in the fee for the hotel, the drinks are not and our waiter, Ali, gets slightly stroppy when we ask for water.
Myself and the other lone traveller end up drinking in the bar and then go off in search of nightlife. An hour later we have found the only bit that isn't a hotel bar - a German beer house called the Brauhaus. All very Tunisian (hmmm). Don't stay for too long.
Contemplate going into Hammamet, decide against and go back to our respective rooms - watch German Big Brother and slightly odd pop channel until fall asleep.
Before going to our hotel for the night at Douz (the gateway oasis to the desert), we go on a camel ride into the dunes. Depsite the fact that there are 50 odd camels in the convoy and a fair few guides and hangers on kicking about, one still can't fail to be awed by the vastness of the desert and the beauty of the dunes. My camel doesn't have a name (I am told by the guide) but he(she?) seems to have an amiable enough disposition (unlike one poor lady in our party who slid off the back of hers and distressed both herself and the camel to such an extent she had to be taken to the hotel). My camel is tethered to another which dribbles affectionately on my leg as we lollop through the dunes.
I am slightly bothered by the rough way the camels are treated, but decide that I know too little about camel keeping to make an issue of it.
Our hotel for the night is in Douz and features a spa bath. The food is of similar style to that back in Hammamet but much better presented and marginally better quality. We are told we are to be up at 3:45 in the morning in order to make it to the salt lake for sunrise. I am also told that I am to pay a single person supplement (20 dinars - about £10)on my room, which I am less than happy about, having already parted with 140 dinars (about £70) for this excursion.
Having risen at 3:45 in the morning, I realise I have a little time before breakfast (at 4) and I wander out of an open doorway and find myself in the Sahara pre dawn. I stare up at the cloudless, star strewn, un-light polluted sky and listen to the absolute stillness broken only by the odd cricket and an early cockerel. Then the call to prayer begins from the local mosque and I think "okay, this is how people get religion". That has to be the most spectacular moment in my time in Tunisia. Just the simple combination of the silence, the sheer aloneness and the ancient sound of prayer.
We eat breakfast bleery eyed and head off for Chott El Djerid - a dried up sea where sand roses bloom and salt collects in huge cracked sheets. This scenery was apparently used in the making of the film "The English Patient" which I haven't seen.
The sun rising (which we only just make it off the coach in time for) is duly photographed and then we can sleep on the coach until we get to the first of our little chain of oases.
I am ashamed to say that I can't remember which one was which - we visited 3 and one of them was Tamerza and I think the other 2 were Tozeur and Metlaoui but I wouldn't swear to it.
We are taken around the first one in a horse drawn carriage and then we go on a brief walk through the greenery to see a young boy fertilising date palms (!) by tying pollen anthers to the female flowers (on a different tree). He shins up and down the 40 foot palms fearlessly with bare hands and feet and dismounts by sliding his hands along a palm frond (and he still had skin left at the end - impressive!).
We then move on to a second oasis via jeep - a bizarre experience since there are over 40 jeeps in the convoy. It got a whole lot more bizarre when our driver put a tape on which started with (appropriately enough) "it's gonna be a bright sunshiny day" and then moved on to George Michael singing the Doris Day hit "Now I shout it from the highest hills" - I bet you do dear.
Anyway, our next oasis involves a climb up a mountain side (Tunisia is at one end of the Atlas chain).
The water that gives the oasis life appears literally to spring from the rockface - all very biblical.
The view from the top is a massive contrast - in one direction the featureless salt lake, in another the palm trees of the oasis and in a third the violently fractured and warped Atlas mountains.
The third oasis is much more commercial and features stalls selling live seasnakes as well as the ubiquitous felt hats, drums, hookahs, earthenware and brassware. I content myself with a bottle of water. Myself and a few others find a small colony of frogs living in the pools by the oasis. One woman comments "imagine realising that you were a frog but you'd been hatched in a bleedin oasis - doesn't leave you much in the way of options does it!"
We head home via lunch (in Gafsa I think). I decide I am in too good a mood to let Ali get me down and since I leave tomorrow, he'll expect a tip which he sure as hell ain't getting. Therefore I order a sandwich and fall asleep.
Get up early and go in search of the gym. Fail to motivate myself beyond 10 minutes on an exercise bike and a couple of crunches. Resign myself to creasing in all of the wrong places when sunbathing.
Other than that much the same as the day before - call home and a friend - this involves going and giving a lady in a kiosk the number you want to call and then paying for it afterwards (quite pricy). Buy postcards. Laze a lot.
Become increasingly bemused by the fact that when I ask for things in French, I am answered in German. Presumably everyone with bad French that comes here is German - fortunately my German is better than my French (incidentally my Arabic is non existent).
Infuriate Ali the waiter by failing to buy any drinks at all at dinner. Locate the Tunisian bit of the canteen and enjoy couscous and lamb stew, followed by extremely sweet cakes. Have a beer with Mark (other lone tourist) and go to bed. Watch "Who wants to be a Millionaire" in German and then in Arabic - get less of the answers right in Arabic. Order room service tea, forgetting that it will have been made with local water and therefore tastes of swimming pools (Tunisian water is very clean because it contains a huge amount of chloride). Decide to be extravagant and order an egg breakfast from room service.
In the morning, I pack and sit in the sun for a final few hours. I tip the cleaners a fiver (10 dinars) and lug my stuff down to the foyeux. The trip home is uneventful - I bump into the Australian couple again - they have had an excellent time. I also buy a bottle of the local digestif - Thibarine, which tastes like alcoholic cough candy - better for the novelty than anything else.
I decide that having done the package thing this time, I want to go back again and spend more time on the good bits and with company next time. But a fantastic holiday nonetheless.
Today I have opted for a whistle stop tour of Tunis, Carthage and Sidi Bou Said.
I am woken by my egg breakfast which is disappointingly raw but bolstered by excessive croissantage (I eat 2 and keep 3 in the fridge for later emergencies). I work out that with enough sugar the tea can be made to taste nearly normal.
I board a coach which seems to be full of French people (I eventually discover there are 5 or so English people as well as me) and spend the first 10/15 minutes wondering if I am on the right coach. Then the commentary kicks in, first in French and then in excellent English. I am reminded of how appalling my French is by the fact that I find myself clinging helplessly to the other English people and giving up attempting to understand the guide until he translates.
We drive through olive groves, lemon and orange plantations and past the occasional camel to Tunis. Here, having been given strict instructions to be back by midday, we are left to our own devices.
I head off (alone - how brave am I?!), guide book in hand, towards the old city (the medina). My guidebook outlines a route through the maze like streets which will show me the mosques (from the outside, non muslims are not permitted entry) and also some of the more characterful bits of the souk. Needless to say my guided walk starts on the opposite side of the medina so I decide to hunt for the nearest point - the Zitoun mosque.
I have been in the medina for about 5 minutes when I am approached by a middle aged man (with standard Tunisian moustache, suit and tie (despite the fact that it is 26 degrees C)) and asked if I am English. Having yet to work out that the best thing to say is "no I'm Serbo Croat", I admit to being from Liverpool. "Ah", he says "I have a nephew at university in Manchester". With hindsight, I suspect he may have several such "nephews" conveniently spread around Europe. He asks me where I am headed and I tell him. He offers to show me the way and I agree thinking I can always lose him if things get tricky.
After much wandering, I catch sight of the minaret of the Zitoun. My impromptu guide points out that I can't go in because there is "a holiday" but if, I would like, I can go up to a terrace he knows and get a better view. "My mother would have a fit", I think, and, having failed completely to defer, I follow him to said terrace. Of course, said terrace is through my guide's "brother's" carpet shop where I am shown exactly how marvellous his "brother's" carpets are. Hmmm. Nevertheless, I am duly shown the terrace and the view is...well...better than it was from the street I suppose.
He also shows me a flower which makes men "like rocks all night". How nice. Having stated firmly that I really didn't want to buy a carpet, I am persuaded to follow him to a perfume shop (apparently they make scent out of the flower) - we never make it as I duck down an alley and run for my life.
So I've managed to ditch the guide. Hurrah. Unfortunately I now have absolutely no idea where I am. My map is little or no help and asking for directions ends up with me having to escape yet another "guide".
I eventually find a minaret which is on my map. This is good as I am a long way from the bus and I only have half an hour to get back. 10 minutes later I find the minaret again. Twice (there's a piccy here somewhere with scaffolding).
In the end I decide blithe innocence is the best bet and wander up to one of the hulking, automatic rifle toting policemen and ask for directions in pidjin French. He grunts at me and I take this as a signal not to try and initiate conversation. (At least he didn't tell me about any flowers). I pretend I'm on the Northern line in rush hour and make it to the bus with a couple of minutes to spare.
We lunch near Carthage and then move on to Carthage itself. We are informed by our guide that the remains of ancient Carthage consist of a tomb and a bath-house both of which can be found on the coast, effectively in the back garden of the President's villa. We are told not to take photos facing towards the villa.
Despite the poor build up, the Carthaginian ruins are rather impressive - all that remains of the bath house is the subterranean level, but this gives an idea of the scale and a couple of pillars have been restored to give an idea of the height of the building in its prime.
Also the view over the sea back towards Cap Bon (where Hammamet is situated) is breathtaking.
On to the Bardo museum. This used to be the bey's palace and parts of it have been left in all their splendour.
The rest houses the largest collection of mosaics in the world (or so we're told). Our tour is comprehensive but high speed - I could quite happily have spent several hours pottering amongst these vast and intricately detailed pieces. It is truly remarkable to see them in such good condition thousands of years after their manufacture. There is also an exhibition of ancient Carthaginian statues and of gravestones from the Taufet - thought by some (the jury is still out) to be a place of child sacrifice.
Hotel El Mouradi
Hi, if anyone has ever stayed at the Sol El Mouradihotel in Port El Kantaoui, I would really appreciate some comments on it. I'm looking at going to Tunisia in September, and the hotel looks lovely. It's just hard to judge the place by a brochure, ya know? I'd love if someone who has stayed there could give some feedback on the hotel and the general surroundings, i.e. is it close to everything, or a little further out. Thanks for any help.
the hotel is a very beautifull hotel and close to port el kantaoui and also not far from downtown sousse....all you have to do to go to downtown is take ashared cab or a private cab,they cost only half a dinar and it`s only a 5 to 10 min ride....you are practically close to everything.
there is also ascending parachutes activities there and water activities...you`ll enjoy it.
Thanks very much. That helps a lot. Could you answer another few questions please, if you have the chance? Is there much in the way of social life in the hotel? How is the food in the hotel? And in the general area? Is it expensive to eat out there? Thanks in advance.
if you mean by social life,tunisia social life,i don`t think there is musch of it in the hotels except if you talk to a receptionist....however outside of the hotel you can always see the social life and the way tunisians interacty with eachother.....the food in the hotels usually are expensive to food that are outside of the hotel....for example you can get a little plate of grilled chicken with mashed potatos for 10 dinars,...outside the hotel you can get a whole rotisserie chicken with french fries for 5 dinars...of course you are a tourist and you are not use to certain spices so you have to go to restaurant that doesn`t put too much of it.....in the hotel you shouldn`t worry too much because they know that most of tourists aren`t use to spices...for a spanish person tunisia is food from heaven because they use alot of spices.
one think you should know is that tunisian food are very similar to italian food if not exactly the same: spaghetti,stuffed peppers,stuffed potatoes,pastina,lasagna,soups,salads...etc
you`ll be fine,don`t worry too much things will be fine...you can eat the first day at the hotel and then the second day go outside of the hotel.
food compared to the usa is very cheap and pizza in tunisia believe it or not is the best pizza in the world but you have to order the tunisian pizza specialty which is<> was ratd the best pizza in the world....better than the italian pizza.
i hope i helped if you have more questions don`t hesitate.
i hope i answered your question about social life
That is a great help. Thank you so much for everything. :)
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