Tunisia Will Seize Ya

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Help! Dentist!
Help! Dentist! – photos by David Rich

Tunisia Will Seize Ya
By David Rich

The military superstar Hannibal sallied forth from this harbor, via Spain, to galumph battle elephants all over Europe, almost erasing the emerging Roman Empire during the Second Punic War from 218-202 B.C.E.

Photogenic Harbors and Villages

Sidi Bou sits next door, a mere half mile away, one of the most photogenic villages on the planet. See the accompanying photos for the breathtaking beauty of whitewashed Sidi Bou Said, accented by blue balconies above the incandescent Mediterranean, a substitute for relatively sterile word-play.

A street in Sidi Bou
A street in Sidi Bou

Proceed down the coast past Sidi Bou to the gorgeous neat-as-a-pin town of Monastir dominated by an intricate fort, scenic yacht basin and extensive mosques, gardens and a sprawling old cemetery.

Home of the Lotus Eaters

After the finger peninsula of Madhia, stuffed with narrow alleyways and exotic Moslem architecture, an ancient castle, Kasbahs and a lighthouse on the tip, lies the melting pot of Jerba Island, home of Homer’s Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey, where few ever wish to leave.

The ancient caravansaries of Jerba’s capitol, Houmt Souq, have been converted into unusual hotel rooms stuffed with antique tiles and accented by picturesque balconies overlooking vibrant pedestrian-only squares discoverable through a narrow labyrinth of alleys.

Doing Torah
Doing Torah

The south also offers vast salt lakes such as Chott El Jerid, dry most of the year, bordered by sparkling crystals of salt and the sparse remains of shimmering blue waters, shading to red.

If you liked the Star Wars series you’ll love the south of Tunisia where most of the movies were filmed. Visit the ksars, fortified Berber strongholds around Tatauoine, Tozeur and Matmata for recognizable settings, below ground in pits sheltering troglodyte houses, or above ground where alien forms tower four stories in colors ranging from pastels of pink to orange and sienna, each fronted by a cyclopean door and called a ghorfa, literally a room. Before Star Wars fame these rooms were mundanely used to store grain, still situated where originally built in the beveled swirls of eroded orange canyons.

Ksar Soltane
Ksar Soltane

The Best Roman Ruins

Cops in jack boots and black hats patrol the entrance and exit roundabouts of every little village, harassing the locals while waving-through tourists who provide the hard currencies that keep the country afloat.

The ruins of the Temple of Minerva at Sbeitla
The ruins of the Temple of Minerva at Sbeitla

Other temples are dedicated to Mercury, Minerva, Pluto, Saturn, the Sun God, Augustine Piety, Carcalla’s Victory, Concorde, Frugifer and Liber Pater, and Tellus. The second best temple consists of well-preserved columns composing the Temple of Juno-Caelestus.

This litany excludes eight houses with nicely intact mosaics, cisterns, crypts, arches, fountains, sanctuaries and the incredibly situated and almost perfectly preserved theater, plus the fabulous Licinian Baths and the perfect Arch of Alexander Severus. When I visited in April the site was blanketed by wild flowers of yellow, purple, blue, orange and chartreuse.

Lighting sheesha
Lighting sheesha

After a respite of caffeine you can venture gingerly out, to explore preposterous Medinas crammed with sweets, spices, stained glassware and colorful tin.

Under no circumstances miss the fabulous Medinas of Sfax and Kairouan while enjoying topnotch coffee and an unending procession of characters far removed from sterile and over-priced Europe.

When You Go:

Fly to Tunis direct from most anywhere for $1000, or substantially less from Europe, or take a plush 24-hour ferry from Rome’s port of Civitavecchia with private cabin from $400 a couple. Enter flights Tunis on any search engine and enjoy.

Nice hotels up to three stars cost between $30 and $50 a night for two. The incredible converted caravansaries in Houmt Souq, Jerba Island, cost far less and provide an indelible experience. Don’t miss the cave hotel at Douiret, southwest of Tataouine, utterly cool for a double at $23 a night.

Four-course set menus in Tunis will cost $7.50 for two people at Carcassone Restaurant, and, of course, way up.

The best way to see Tunisia is to rent a car because the country has excellent roads, paved and well-maintained, with little traffic and cops who pamper tourists, including tourists who make dumb mistakes. I rented a nice Renault from Jawda Rent-a-car in Tunis for 17 days, total cost $520 with unlimited kilometers.

David Rich

has been an international traveler, writer, and photographer for the last 13 years, living in 140 countries to date.

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A horseman at the Douz Festival in Tunisia

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David Rich
David Rich is GoNOMAD's most intrepid writer, braving blizzards, monsoons, desert heat and State Department travel advisories to visit the world's most out-of-the-way places from the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan to the wilds of Borneo to the Harley-Davidson Rally Week in Sturgis, South Dakota. He lives in Glendale AZ where his latest passion is flying his own plane.
David Rich

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