The Magnificent North
Article & Photography by Michael Morcos
Flying into Tunis-Carthage, the colors of the desert collide with those of the oasis. Deep browns blend with yellow, gold, violet and orange. It is like landing into a biblical epic.
At first, Tunis appears to be a clean, organized and quiet city. As Tunisia was a French colony until 1956, there is a dash of the west within the North African feel of the city. There were certain avenues, with their cafés and terraces, that would be seen in Paris itself, and as the western and Arabic architecture were blended well, Tunis has a very unique and pleasant atmosphere.
The Regency Hotel is a lovely hotel placed in a quiet touristic area between the sea and the Sabkhet Arina, where often you can see a lot of flocks of flamingos. And has a beautiful inner garden, with a big swimming pool and direct connection to the beach. Nice way to start the trip!
We enjoyed our first meal at the beautiful Sidi Bou Said hotel, delicious, with staff both professional and courteous, and followed that up with a visit to the Village of Sidi Bou Said.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with this place, dubbed Tunisia’s blue-and-white village, that is enchanting and sometimes seems to be a painted scene, in which you can be lost through the winding streets and secret places, where twisted flights of steps lead to hidden gardens and flower-filled courtyards. Doors are a special feature of the village with some ancient, huge and heavy, others that are embedded with traditional motifs of the area and all leading into varied shops, cafes and terraces.
Ottoman Era Opulance
In 1912, French and German artist Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger built a magnificent palace with a distinct Arabic design. No luxury was spared as the opulent rooms are filled with beautiful ornaments, jewels and glorious furnishings inside its massive interior. Today, this Gatsby-esque mansion houses the Mediterranean Music Centre where numerous concerts are held throughout the year.
Century after century
Visiting the Tunis Medina (Old Town) offer a fascinating opportunity to learn more about this north African city filled with narrow streets, souks, mosques, and historic structures. The Tunis Medina became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Now there are cruise ships docked at La Goulette, shopping areas and you can even visit a Berber carpet shop, where you can learn more about the beautiful rugs made in Tunisia.
Tunisian history is long, full and rich with stories of love, battle and royalty, and the renowned Musee De Bardo contains a vast collection of artifacts and antiquities that span the centuries. Originally a palace of the Hafsid dynasty during their rule in the 13th century, the Musee is located in the outer suburbs of Tunis and has an immense collection of Roman Mosaics and treasures from ancient Greece and Tunisia.
Further in the day, we visited the local fish markets. Unlike many fish markets, this one was clean and well-organized, and the vendors were among the friendliest in the world. Taking great pride in their catches and stalls, they continually cleaned and stacked the counters. Clear evidence the sea was not far away, the variety of fish and seafood was more than any seafood lover could ask for.
Carthage City Visit
After breakfast at the Au Bon Vieux Temps restaurant in Sidi Bou Said, with a wonderful view overlooking the sea and mountains in the distance. Good service, good food and a decent wine selection. Lots of energy to get our tour of Carthage going!
An amazing trip can be had walking through ancient historical sites throughout the city. Having a guide to explain the details about the history of Tunisia and the story behind the ancient ruins is a great investment.
Carthage and the Ancient world
For history buffs, the area dubbed the “Sea of Empires”, Carthage Port Punique, has facilities that have been operating since pre- historic times when emperors ruled ancient Tunisia. This location was a first battleground during the first Punic war and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built as both a commercial and military port, Carthage Port Punique is built along high walls whose purpose was to have a strategic military port where a large number of ships could be hidden in harbour.
Rocking the Kasbah in Hammamet
Hammamet, a coastal city known for its many sandy beaches, is a contrast to many of the other towns and cities which have kept the narrow and winding streets of the old days. Hammamet’s newly developed area has luxury resort hotels that tailor to the all-inclusive vacationer, with large swimming pools and direct access to private sections of the beaches.
Though mostly modern, the city is still dominated by the Kasbah (Arabic for fort), from which a visitor can enjoy a 360-degree view of the blue ocean, the golden sandy beaches, the Great Mosque, the medina and the white washed houses of the city – exotic and grand!
Marvelous Medina Mediterranea
The next day’s breakfast was at the Chez Achour in Port de plaisance, a very nice restaurant located within a garden and has very tasty Tunisian food and good service. The seafood was great and the calamari is exceptional, fresh and well prepared.
Medina Mediterranea is a magical city dedicated to culture and leisure in the heart of the seaside resort Yasmine Hammamet. Medina was established in respect of the Arab-Andalusia culture, with Mediterranean architecture built according to ancient techniques combining traditional charm with the comforts of the 21st century. It is a unique place with its cultural heritage which will take you through history and help travellers experience the ancient legends.
Satisfied in Sousse
This central Tunisian city is a hub of trade and products from processed foods to olive oil and transportation equipment. A blend of new world and old world is presented in Sousse, and a leisurely afternoon stroll is time well spent. Among the streets visitors can visit the small boutiques, cafes and souvenir shops found on every corner or spend a few minutes cooling off with an opportunity to buy Tunisian spices and fragrant essential oils in the many stalls in the markets of Sousse. This destination has a fulfilling amount of memorable things to see and do that embodies the rich cultural and historical heritage in this part of the world.
Putting about Port El Kantaoui
Continuing a modernization trend in Tunisia, Port El Kantaoui is located to the north of the Sousse. Built in 1979, the area is a paradise of modern activities and considered one of the country`s best and largest tourist attraction. At this popular spot, you can enjoy a wonderful, PGA approved 36-hole golf course, as well as nearby leisure options for paragliding, yachting and water skiing. For those seeking a more mellow experience, the cobblestone streets that wind throughout the city offer another pleasant activity to try.
It ends with breakfast
Breakfast in La Daurade is in El Kantaoui, which was a beautiful place to eat, with impeccable food and friendly staff in a relaxing atmosphere.
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