Matmata Museum: troglodyte dwelling scams
Around Matmata the thing to see are the troglodyte dwellings. The Sidi Driss Hotel is one made famous by the Star Wars movies. You can go there and still see some of the Star Wars elements built into the walls, but now painted a nice bright yellow so you can identify them. This isn't the scam, as you can freely wander in and take pictures.
Around town you will get local boys asking if you want a guide to show you a troglodyte dwelling. We decided we wanted to see a real family home, not a hotel, so we took one of the locals up on his offer. He led us to a home, with a sign indicating it was the Matmata Museum--it's located on the hill behind the Sidi Driss Hotel. We were greeted by a local woman to enter her home. Once inside there were photos and Tunisian artifacts, and a small sign in French indicating the fee is 5 dinars to tour the museum, which we missed. So after our tour of the home with its made-up rooms and dressed up mannequins, we met our own real-life Jabba the Hutt. She had her hand out demanding 5 dinars each. She thought we had short-changed her and kept muttering in French that we owed her more money. Our guide finally told her to count the money.
Unique Suggestions: Just be aware that you have to pay 5 dinar each to enter the "Matmata Museum" which is an outrageous sum of money. We paid 25 dinars for the five of us.
Fun Alternatives: Visit the Sidi Driss for free and take photos. Don't go to the museum. There are many families around Matmata that will open their homes to visitors--just have one of the local guide boys take you to one. You can tour the home and the family may even offer you mint tea, but for a more reasonable amount, five dinar for a few people should be sufficient. Your guide will probably be all right with a a similar amount or less for his work.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Hotel Sidi Driss
As tourist traps go this is laughable. It's virtually labelled TOURIST TRAP and exists almost solely for tourist who want to be trapped. Yes, it's the STAR WARS (tm) place. Outside, a coach park, souvenir stalls, a handful of tour guides and some camels, who must really hate the rock-strewn landscape. Inside, you can see a bit of Star Wars scenery. Theatre or film scenery should not really be seen close-to and without the appropriate lighting. It just looks rather folorn. I really could't be bothered to enter the place - and you can see the Star wars bits from over the rim of the excavation - but a couple who were in the same hotel as me told me they'd been ripped 46TD for two plates of 'vegetarian' couscous (with a stray lump of flesh in it) and three beers. To give a comparison, the dinner in my hotel was 4TD & beers were 2TD each.
The choice is yours.
Fun Alternatives: For Star Wars freaks, this is the fun. If you're interested in the architecture, there are other hotels, and the actual way of life of this region can be better appreciated by taking a walk to one of the nearby villages.
It won't make you laurence of Arabia
The rather obvious tourist experience camel ride will mean you are transported just a few hundred feet down a lane to meet one of the camel drivers relatives who will proudly show you around her all mod-cons cave.
Unique Suggestions: Have some small change available for the inevitable extras and treat it as a chance to get to know a local a little better. After all it's not everyday you meet a cave dweller - even if they do have a T.V ,fridge and playstation 2 with "grand theft Camel" being played on it by their son.
Riding on a camel tour
The scary part is when the camel first stands up violently on his forelegs and throw you backwards and second stands up violently on his back-legs and throw you forward ! However, the camel keeper holds you and everything will be OK. Once of top of the camel, its pace is very smooth and pleasant. Anyway, that will not be more than a hundred meters tour !
Leaving for a camel tour
In Matmata, as in most places in Southern Tunisia, there are always a few camels waiting for tourists that want to experience camel riding. They are always equipped with comfortable saddles and there is no danger, even for young childs.
Never trust to your agent
The very next day, after I arrived to Tunis, my agent asked me to book in advance all excursions I planned to do. The safari tour cost me 135 dinars, which is approx. 90 euros, for two days in which I have visited El Jem, Matmata, Douz, Tozeur, Chott el Jerid, Chebika, Tamerza and Kairouan. It was like running a 100 meters sprint race.
Unique Suggestions: Go to the local agency which offers three days safari, all the way in jeep, for the price of 180 dinars (approx. 120 euros). You'll see much more, you'll feel more comfortable and everything will be under your own command.
Fun Alternatives: See above
- Family Travel
All photos cost money
If you feed the lonely baby camel, admire the young girl weaving the carpet, learn to grind the grains from the old berber lady and take some pictures, have enough dinars in your pocket.
Unique Suggestions: Always ask people before taking some pictures. Most of the time they don't agree with.
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