Tunesia: Country and People
Favorite thing: Personally, I´m VERY keen on Tunesia and I´ve been there many times.
I may be overstating it but Tunesia has everything except wild night life, though I suppose if you´re a party person and on a charter holiday you could manage that too. If you´re like me though, and abhore throngs of "tourists" (the stereotypic ones) then getting away is so easy. Simply jump on a country bus! There are plenty of interesting places where you may not see a single European (besides the one in the mirror), or at worst mere day-trippers who surface about noon-time and vanish an hour or 2 later. These sort of places are very discrete and you´ll have to rely on your own motivation, but if you´re intereted in culture, ruins, people, etc. you should have no problem.
A bonus, if you can speak French, is that the Tunesians are friendly, helpful, and interested in chatting about your culture as well as their own. There are no Arab-European vis-à-vis taboo subjects in Tunesia and their friendship has no price tag, the sort that one often finds with others "in the broad vicinity".
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do not miss to visit Carthago
Favorite thing: NAME: Deformation of "Kart Hadasht" ("the new town"), the name used by the Phoenicians in the 9th century B.C.
LOCATION AND ACCESS: In the outskirts of
Tunis (15 km north of the capital), on the Gulf of Tunis. Excellent paved roads from Tunis to Carthage. International Tunis-Carthage airport used by the major international airline companies.
DIALING CODE: 01.
ACCOMMODATION: Several hotels (see Hotels Listing)
Who has not heard of Hannibal and this city who dared brave the might of Rome? Now the ruins of both these great empires lay open to the sun and wildflowers. Declared a national monument the town of Carthage and nearby Salammbo abound in vestiges of the Punic and Roman empires, baths, dwellings, temples, shrines and the fabulous naval port of the Carthaginians.
The hill of Byrsa, where in the 8th century BC, Carthage was founded by the legendary Princess Elissa-Dido, is a storehouse of history .Newly restaured, the former cathedral of Saint Louis, which crowns the hill is now a cultural center and the nearby nationalmuseum of Carthage holds an impressive collection of Punic statues, steles and urns . How strange that this breathtakingly beautiful site should have been the theater of such violence, as a Roman historian wrote of the fall of Carthage "the city was then razed and burnt to the ground and the accursed land covered with salt to ensure its barrenness."
For a thousand years, Phoenicians were masters of the Mediterranean and over 200 war ships and innumerable merchant vessels were sheltered in the nearby port of Salammbo. At its center the Admirals island still exists and archeologists are reconstituting the pavilion with its shrine and docks. Next to the ports the ancient sanctuary of the goddess Tanit (Tophet) a quiet, shady square of hundreds of funeral steles.
The Romans returned to Carthage and built on its ruins a new Carthage resplendent with great buildings, theaters, villas and baths. Carthage became the administrative capital for Africa and its importance can be seen in the Antoinine Thermal baths, one of the largest built under the Roman empire with the "cool room" an amazing 47 meters long and 15 meters high. The Roman theater is still used today for the summer festival of Carthage.
Fondest memory: http://www.tourismtunisia.com/togo/carthage/carthage.html
Phoning home from Tunisia
Favorite thing: Cheapest mobile calls are to buy a Tunisian sim card when you arrive.
Calls to UK will cost around 1TD per minute about 45p, far cheaper than UK rates of £1.35 per min.
When buying top-up's you pay extra (ie 20TD will cost a little more) but that is just the way it is done. Due to Tunisians not having large sums of money many outlets will just top the phone electronically (ie send you the mins from their donar phone). Do make sure that your pone is unlocked before you go though. When you return home either sell the card on ebay etc, or bring some top-up cards and add 5TD every 6 months so that it is not switched off. I use my card each year that I go.
If your phone is too new to unlock cheaply get hold of an older 2nd-hand one, O2 do not lock their cheaper tariff phones, so they'll accept the Tunisiana card. Not all phones accept the text settings automatically, if you want to send text you need to check the setting, they should be able to do that for you when you buy the sim.Related to:
- Budget Travel
ANDALUSIAN SMALL TOWNS
Favorite thing: In Spain during the XIIth century all the people that were not Christians or however had Jewish or Muslim relatives had to leave the country. Some Andalusian immigrants came to Tunisia and they tried to build constructions using the styles and decorations they were used to in Spain. So thanks to these people we still can see in Tunisia "a piece of Spain", because these towns really look like some villages in Andalusia. Even if they are clearly an "off the beaten path destination" in Tunisia, they worth a visit.
I'll try to visit and write about all these towns; Some examples are Zaghouan orTestour
IIWW IN TUNISIA
Favorite thing: After the English-American disembarks in Morocco and Algiers (8-11th November 1942) the French North Africa took part of the fight on the Allies’ side. On 9th November the German troops disembarked in Bizerte and landed in Tunis. Tunisia would be the scene of the first land combats lead by l’Armée d’Afrique on the Allies’ side. Some important dates to remember:
* Since 19th November 1942 General Barre and his French Forces put up resistance to a German attack in Mejez el Bab (northwest Tunis). It was the beginning of the hostilities in the Tunisian Campaign
* Different combats took place between November and December; Djebel Ahmara, that dominated the Medjerda Valley (named by the British troops the “Longstop Hill”) went over to the enemy’s hands
* On 18th January 1943 the German “Tiger” tanks appeared for the first time in an offensive in Oum el Abouab. The American armoreds stopped this attack in the north Ousseltia
* On 4th February 1943 Marshall Rommel’s Afrikakorps crossed the Tunisian border and together with their Italian allies they reinforced their defense over the Mareth line that went from Matmata to the sea before counterattacking on 14th February through Sbeitla and Gafsa
* In the south, on 17th February 1943 the 8th British Army run up against the Mareth line from three different axes:
-Frontal attack by the 30th British Army Corps
-Attack from the east and direction to Gabes by the New Zealander Corps. The New Zealanders, together with the General Leclerc’s “L force” support, occupied Ksar Ghilane on 22nd February
-Attack over Gafsa and Maknassy by the 2nd American Army Corps
* After some violent combats Sfax fell on 10th April and Sousse two days later. During the following days the “L force” took the coast and the New Zealanders took Takrouna.
* The final offensive started in May 1943. The Americans took Bizerte on 7th May, the British entered in Tunis on 6th May and made their way to Hammamet on 8th May and to Bou Ficha on 12th May
* The French 19ème Corps d’Armée was in charge of the attack to Zaghouan. On 7th May la Division de Marche d’Oran, commanded by General Boissau, took the Pont du Fahs and joined the British on 12th May.
* On 12th May 1943 General Feyberg and General Boissau received the surrender of the German and Italian troops. The Allies become the masters of all North Africa.
WHY SIDI BOU SAID IS SO BLUE AND WHITE…
Favorite thing: Arabs don’t like the blue color very much. Take a look at the flags of Arabic countries: they are basically red (red means blood for them) and sometimes they use other colors like black, white or green but blue color does not form part of their culture. So why are Sidi Bou Said and Tunis in general so blue and white? This is thanks to Baron Erlanger. Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger was a French-American nobleman who lived in Sidi Bou Said. He loved Sidi Bou Said and wanted to buy it and transform it in a kind of Monaco full of yachts, casinos and beautiful people. Fortunately this land was not for sale. The Baron was the responsible for Sidi Bou Said current look (blue was his favorite color). His palace (Palais Ennjema Ezzahra) with beautiful views to Sidi Bou Said’s bay is a good example. The Baron was also responsible for the revival of Tunisian traditional music. Nowadays there are beautiful concerts in his palace (take a look at my tip “musiqat at Sidi Bou Said”)
BYZANTINE AND CHRISTIAN TUNISIA
Favorite thing: Byzantine era has always been neglected in Tunisia (and by tourists!) but there are some fine Byzantine remains that worth a visit. Most of the military structures (basically forts) in Tunisia have Byzantine origins; you can find remains of basilicas at most of the roman cities too like in Cartago, Thignica. Sbeitla or Haïdra.
In 533 Byzantine (the western half of the Roman Empire) Emperor Justinian sent an army under his general Belisarius, which crushed the Vandals and took Carthage.
Years later we can find an autonomous society with an independent character from Constantinople It seems that that period was marked by an administrative and economical revival and a vigorous religious life until the arrival of the Arabs, who defeated the Perfect Gregory in 647. Despite this, Christian and Muslim communities coexisted in Tunisia for some six centuries more and the disappearance of Christianity in Tunisia it's not very clear yet.
Tunisia is Saint Agustin’s homeland too, one of the most important figures for the development of the Christianity, who lived and studied here. Born from a Christian mother and pagan father he was baptized a Christian only in his mid-30s and in the course of his work in North Africa.
Nowadays there are no indigenous Christian communities in Tunisia.
Favorite thing: Tunisia has kilometers and kilometers of nice beaches and turquoise sea. You can swim and sunbathe in the morning, walk along its corniches during the afternoon and admire the Tunisian sunsets in front a cup of shaii at a nice cafè. Most of these sea villages have nice medinas too. Places like Hammamet or Sousse are very famous but full of tourists in summer time too; others like Mahdia or Nabeul are just hidden gems
TIP 0: THE FOUR GOLDEN RULES TO SURVIVE IN TUNISIA
It took me ten months to write it but this is maybe the best tip about Tunisia that I can offer to the vt community.
Resident or visitor, there are 4 basic rules that should help you to survive in Tunisia, specially if you want to interact with local people:
1-Don't ask yourself too many questions.
2-Even the simplest operation can become a real Odyssey in Tunisia.
3-Be patient . . . here everything is "inchallah". . .
4-Always, remember always, contrast the information (specially the indications to find a place) that you receive.
I could add an illustrative example based on my own experiences to any of these rules but i prefer that you discover them by yourselves. . . Am I a bad girl?? No, just "cherrira" ;-)))
Favorite thing: Phoenicians arrived to the Tunisian coasts by the year 814bC when princess Elissa founded Cartago; They colonized the surrounded areas and converted them in trading ports. Cartago became an independent state with a population of 500.000 inhabitants. Utica was also a very important trading port and soon became Cartago’s rival (see my tips about Utica). Phoenician colonization was a commercial colonization but Cartago was becoming so important that Romans considered it “dangerous” and they started the Punic Wars (three wars!) that finished with the roman conquest of Cartago in 146 bC and the foundation of the roman province of Africa with Utica as its capital.
Almost all the Roman cities in Tunisia like Dougga, Utica, Cartage, Thuburbo Majus… have Phoenician origins and you still can recognize some former Phoenician structures or constructions; The star of this tip is Kerkouane, the only Phoenician city that was never occupied by a roman town (and I don’t understand this because Kerkouane is such a beautiful place with a strategic location…)
When Romans destroyed Cartago and won the third Punic War they converted Utica in the capital of the new roman province of Africa and Phoenicians started to be forgotten...
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Tunisia A to Z
Favorite thing: Ali baba: His companions were the forty robbers, whose descendants - according to some tourists - are the merchants of Tunisia.
Baksheesh: That's what you do not have to give, but obligatory. Exceeds often the performance of your wallet.
Camel: Not the winner of the animal beauty contest.
Carthage: The capital of the Punic realm, Scipio a Roman strategist razed it, but a lot of thing to see remained yet.
Dates: It is a fantastic feeling, when riding a camel in the green oasis, ripe dates fall into your lap. Indeed, the conditions of the paradise, as long as it does not need to be paid the price of camel ride.
Hotel: Most of them have been built in the past few years. The category is determined by a shot in the dark merely, otherwise are twins.
Java coffee: This is, which is not known, neither even by mere report here. The Arab coffee substitute made from ground date seed and I suspect that even many of the Espresso machines can use this. Very sweet!!
Medina: Arab downtown, which is a pleasant market in daytime, after dusk , however, is the meeting place of the tourists being tired of life, with the Arab knives.
Oasis: Where you see a place with more than twenty palm tree in the desert or on its edge, that is it.
People: meek and wild, hostile and friendly, hospitable and withdrawn - and all at once. Their skin colour covers every nuance from the black to the white, due to the fact, that the many conquerors left back not only the residues of the buildings in the country.
Road Traffic Regulation: It exists, but nobody knows, why. For people with a weaker nerve is rather advisable to close their eyes in the traffic.
Water: The most valuable substance in the country, more expensive than petrol.Related to:
- Road Trip
Kairouan - Syndicat d'Initiative
Favorite thing: The Syndicat d'Initiative is located to the north of the town beside the Aghlabid Basins and is where you can obtain a single ticket which allows you admission into the main tourist attractions in Kairouan. The ticket, which costs TD7 plus TD1 for camera charge, includes entry into the Great Mosque, Aghlabid Basins, Zaouia of Sidi Sahab, Zaouia of Sidi Amor Abbada, Bir Barouta, Raqqada Islamic Art Museum and Zaouia of Sidi Abid el-Ghariani. If you're visiting the Aghlabid Basins, then stop off on the rooftop of the Syndicat d'Initiative for a good view of them.
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Monastir - Monty Python
Favorite thing: Recognise the Nador tower in the Ribat? Well if you saw the film Monthy Python's Life of Brian then you probably would as it was featured in a scene where Brian (played by Graham Chapman) fell of the top only to be rescued by a passing alien spaceship. Another famous scene filmed within the Ribat was that of Biggus Dickus with some 500 Tunisians laughing at Michael Palin. I think the stoning scene was also filmed outside the walls of Ribat.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Carthage - One ticket for all sites
Favorite thing: When you enter your first tourist sight, you're able to visit the rest of the sights with one all day ticket which saves you having to but individual tickets all the time. The ticket costs TD7 plus TD1 for camera charge and covers the amphitheatre, Roman villas, Roman Theatre, Paleo-Christian Museum, Carthage Museum on Byrsa Hill, Sanctuary of Tophet, Antonine Baths and Magon Quarter. You have to pay extra in order to visit the L'Acropolium or Cathedral on top of Byrsa Hill.
Favorite thing: Tunisia is maybe the second country after Italy to have the best roman remains. Complete cities with their baths, forum, dwellings, markets... are still standing in very good conditions and they are very impressive.
-Some remains like El Jem's amphitheater or Dougga are very important and they form part of the Unesco's World Heritage;
-Others are very special, like Bulla Regia, where houses were built underground, or Thuburbo Majus, that kept its former punic pattern
-Others like Mactaris, Cillum, Musti... are too off the beaten path, but are nice to visit too if you have some time left
The Residence is right on the beach near Carthage, with it's own stretch of beach offering various...more
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