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Fascinating Tunisia

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

tunisia fam trip

Recently I have visited Tunisia as a familiarization trip organized by the Tunisia Tourism Ministry with the support of Tunis Air. Tunisia is not only a beach holiday destination. It also offers a range of activities and sights for tourists interested in adventure as well as religious tourism. For foodies, Tunisia is a must visit destination.

Tunisia is the most important olive-growing country of the southern Mediterranean region. The country counts 11 million inhabitants and is one-third smaller than California but it is the second-largest producer of olive oil in the world.

I also would like to mention about Tunisian wines that you should try. Geographical location of the country makes it a rare location close to the equator for quality wine production. Along the northern coast and the Gulf of Tunis the climate is significantly influenced by the Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers creating a successful viticulture environment. Vine husbandry and winemaking were first introduced to Tunisia by the Phoenicians during the Punic era.

The country located at North Africa is home to the ancient city of Carthage with thousands of years of history, the magnificent Sahara desert and beautiful Mediterranean beaches.

Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Spaniards, Turks, and the French have each left an imprint on the nation’s storied terrain with well-preserved sites and intriguing age-old ruins at every turn. Seven sites have UNESCO World Heritage Site status with 46 new additions slated for UNESCO inscription.

The country suffers from the terrorist attack in March 2015 that killed 20 tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, capital of the country. Throughout the trip, I saw special police around the towns and centers as well as tourist polices mostly in the bazaars. I think there is no risk of traveling in Tunisia however every traveler visiting a foreign city should be careful and cautious during their journey. At the end we know that no one can guarantee that there will be no terrorism at any place in the world.

The psychological impact of terrorism is sufficient to disrupt tourism in most countries but the large countries are able to absorb the damage to the economy which too much ado. However, the smaller countries and developing countries who are completely dependent on tourism can reach the point of collapse because of the effect of terrorism to the tourism industry, as was evident after the 9/11 attacks.

Therefore, we - as travelers should not stop traveling because of one attack.

On our first day, we have visited Sousse and Monastir.

Monastir

Monastir is a city on the central coast of Tunisia, in the Sahel area, 20 km south of Sousse and 162 km south of Tunis. With 100 thousand inhabitants, Monastir is a tourist resort and traditionally known as a fishing port. You can fly to Monastir – Habib Bourguiba International Airport which has flights from most Western European countries. It is run by Turkey’s TAV - Tepe Akfen Ventures Airport Holding.

The city features a well preserved Ribat that was used to scan the sea for hostile ships as a defence against the attacks of the Byzantine fleet. Several ulema came to stay in the Ribat of this peaceful city for contemplation. The Ribat was also one of the filming locations for both the miniseries Jesus of Nazareth and Monty Python's Life Of Brian.

Habib Bourguiba (3 August 1903 – 6 April 2000) was a Tunisian statesman who became the country's first President of the Republic of Tunisia from 1957 to 1987. He is like the father of Tunisians and when you are here, you should see his mausoleum.

Sousse

Sousse is 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of the capital Tunis, and located in the Gulf of Hammamet. Through history Sousse has come under the rule of 5 major cultures. It is an important tourist resort. The resort town has 40,000 beds capacity. It is only 20 km (12 mi) from the international airport of Monastir. It has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and warm, mild wet winters.

You should see the Medina, surrounded by its city walls and fortifications, is of historical interest. It has open and covered bazaars (souks).You can visit ribat castle, the central mosque, and a historical museum in the Casbah with mosaics from the area's many Roman villas. You could have your lunch and dinner at the marina.

You can also play golf here. El Kantaoui Golf Course (you can see photos from there above) is situated in port el kantaoui, is the oldest well-known course in the country. It is located in the heart of the most modern seaside resorts and closed to a panoply of luxurious hotels. El kantaoui golf course designed by the famous architect Ronald Fream extends over 130 hectares between sea and hills. It is divided on two 18 holes courses: Panorama course & Sea course. For more information visit www.portelkantaoui.com.tn

 Kairouan

On our second day, we visited first Kairouan, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city was founded by the Arabs around 670. It became an important center for Sunni Islamic scholarship and Quranic learning, and thus attracting a large number of Muslims from various parts of the world. The Great Mosque of Kairouan is the most important touristic site to visit that is also known as the Mosque of Uqba (Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba).

You can also visit and see the medina and remarkable monuments such as the Sidi Saheb mausoleum and its wonderful ceramics. It is also the main craft center of the Tunisian carpet industry. In photos, you will see the ceramic carpet at the entrance of the city.

Hammamet

Our second stop was in Hammamet. In Hammamet, visitors can admire the gardens and orange groves, as well as the charming medina, Spanish fort and excellent beaches. A few kilometers to the south stretches the new, upmarket Yasmine Hammamet resort, with its luxury hotels, marina, long esplanade and “Medina” – a park in the form of a traditional town, recreated complete with all the features and attractions you would expect. In Nabeul, you can discover the renowned local handicrafts (pottery and ceramics, mats and laces) and enjoy the bustle of the souks. Here when you walk in the tiny streets of Medina, you may feel like you are on a Greek island.

If you are interested in thalassotherapy and spa, you may stay at Nahrawess Thalassa Palace in Hammamet which has a private beach, pools and a very big thalassotherapy center.

Here we visited Hotel La Badira, which is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. Opened in December 2014, La Badira is designed for luxury and peaceful escapes and the hotel is exclusively for adults over 16 years.

Tunis, Carthage and Sidi Bou Said

Our last stop was Tunis, the capital of the country. Here you can visit the medina, monuments such as the Great Mosque, the Tourbet el-Bey Mausoleum – sovereigns of Turkish origin, palaces and souks, which contain a plethora of temptations. Another major attraction is the magnificent Bardo Museum, famous for its exceptional collection of Roman mosaics. Just a few kilometers away, you should visit Carthage which is a UNESCO heritage site and the charming village of Sidi Bou Said.

The old European quarters, built at the turn of the 20th century, have become a picturesque part of town. Here is the city’s major meeting point and the ideal place to saunter between the cafes, boutiques, patisseries, and restaurants. Avenue Bourguiba, which has recently been given a facelift, is the backbone of this district. Not far from here, the central market is worth the detour for its ambience and the explosion of smells.

When you are walking on the Avenue Bourguiba, we visited the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul. The cathedral, which crossroads between Avenue Habib Bourguiba and Avenue de France, opposite the French embassy, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Tunis. Construction began in 1893 and the church was opened at Christmas 1897.

If you get hungry, you may want to taste Tunisian cuisine at Dar Belhadj which is a first class restauran in a typically Tunisian setting right in the middle of the old town. Located at 17 La Medina between the two souks el Attarine & el Balgagia, situated few meters of the grand Mosque Ezzitouna. For more information visit www.darbelhadj.com

Carthage founded by the Phoenicians in 814 BC, then destroyed and rebuilt by the Romans, retains some impressive vestiges of its historical heritage, such as the remains of the Antonine Baths, villas and the Roman theatre. The neighboring blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said is a must. Sidi Bou Said surveys the Gulf of Tunis from its hilltop location.

In the surrounding area, luxury hotels, acclaimed restaurants, entertainment venues, spas, and hydrotherapy centers give the Cotes de Carthage resort its upmarket reputation.

The Bardo National Museum

I believe that the Bardo National Museum is the most important museum of Tunisia but also the Mediterranean region. Here you will see one of the finest and largest collections of Roman mosaics in the world. They are from excavations undertaken from the beginning of the 20th century on archaeological sites in the country including Carthage, Hadrumetum, Dougga, or Utica. The Museum also contains a rich collection of marble statues representing the gods and Roman emperors found on various sites including those of Carthage and Thuburbo Majus.

Some travelers don’t enjoy history and not interested in museums but here is different. We were very fortunate enough that our guide; Mohamed Nabli with his fluent English presents us the history behind the mosaics that I still remember its stories. Below I am sharing avideo while he was explaining us interesting story of what the mosaic is about.

If you would like to take a tour with Mohamed Nabli you can reach him from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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