I started my travel for 2012 with what my mother would likely describe as my way of trying to give her a nervous breakdown. If I was being completely honest with myself, when the opportunity came up to visit Tunisia I was a little apprehensive as well. This is after all the country that just over 12 months ago set in motion a revolutionary wave that is still making its presence felt across the arab world.
Undeterred by those thoughts, there was still something alluring about visiting a country that is far less travelled than the usual worn track of Asia and Europe. This would also be my first landing on the African continent and for a traveller that’s a totally amazing yet completely pointless stat to add to my resume.
If I had to express how my short stay left me feeling about the country so you could understand then the experience leaving the airport after arrival probably sums it up. After securing our fare the taxi driver in his little yellow and well worm minivan didn’t let the fact he was caught in a row of other taxis with curbs either side stop him. He simply reverses into the taxi behind for space and proceeds to mount the curb and head off.
It’s a little rough around the edges but man will it surprise you
The sprawling medina guarantees to get you lost in a maze of tiny streets lined with clothing (clothing may or may not be knockoff goods from China), jewellery, oils and spices. At times It was like being stuck in a packed nightclub as you fight your way to the bar for another beer. To really appreciate it and explore the Zitouna Mosque located in the heart of the medina, your best to explore early in the morning so you can admire the old town without the chaos under your feet.
If the medina gets too much then head north via train to the Roman ruins of Carthage. A 3000 year old city that for its age still has some pretty amazing sights to behold. At a cost of just 9,000 Dinar plus 1,000 to take photos (5 Euros) you can gain entry to all the sites that make up Carthage. It’s worth noting that to see everything you need to make a day of it, especially in the warm weather given hour much walking is involved between each section. Carthage is serviced by four train stops on the TGM rail line, the best stop being Carthage Hannibal. From there you can roam to the Antonine Baths and onwards.
In addition to the above, Tunis houses some great museums along with the Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul. The largest remaining building left over from the days when the French called the shots. The French did however leave some amazing traits like the Avenue Habib Bourguiba that runs right through the middle of Tunis.
On top of everything to see and do the food in my mind was out of this world. It was so good in fact I ended up ordering the same meal two nights in a row. Nestled away down a side street off Avenue Habib Bourguiba was La Huchette. It was at this restaurant I lost my Berber Lamb virginity. Cooked in a large ceramic pot the staff tip it straight onto your plate where the meat almost falls apart on its own as it lands.
Over the course of the weekend trip to Tunis I went from apprehensive to enjoying the chance to explore a country that is still somewhat unwritten about in todays traditional travel mediums. And while not all the experiences were a joyous one, like their love for smoking in and around everything. From the restaurant to the hotel lobby no area was off-limits for that little cancer stick. Something as minor as that won’t stop me planning my visit Tunisia 2.0 experience for sooner rather than later and I hope you all do the same.