Tim and Martina moved to Tunisia for a short time, so we had to be quick if we wanted to catch up with them again. And although Tunisia is also in Africa, there are no direct flights from East Africa, so we had to fly via Istanbul.
Tim and Martina had organised the whole trip, which meant we could just sit back and enjoy the ride. The first stop on the planned itinerary was Djerba Island, where Martina had found a lovely hotel called Dar Atyqua, in the middle of Hara Sghira Er Riadh. When we went for a walk in town, we realised we were lucky as there was a festival on. We enjoyed the markets, local food and dress, crafts, and music. In the little town there is also a lot of street art, which we admired along the way.
As our local guides, Tim and Martina knew what to order in the restaurant, and we had a delicious lunch. For the afternoon Tim wanted to go kitesurfing, so we had a lesson whilst he was out there having fun. We managed to get a few short (seconds) rides in, but most of the time we were being dragged through the water… That night we had a delicious dinner in the hotel restaurant where Jon had pre-ordered the local dish.
In the morning we were picked up by our driver, we were heading into the dessert. We stopped along the way to buy some strawberries and dates in a market and tried some more local delicacies. We also bought some camel meat for that night, but decided to give the camel balls a miss… At the butchers you can easily see what meat they have, and if it is fresh, as they hang the head of the slaughtered animal outside. If the head still smells ok, the meat is still good to buy. Clever system.
On our way to the desert we stopped at Chenini, a ruined Berber village from the twelfth century on top of a hill. It used to be a ksar, or fortified granary. Some of them are still used to store grain today. Another impressive ksar we visited was Ksar Ouled Soltane from the fifteenth century, which is spread out over two courtyards and has multi-story granaries. This one was made famous featuring in the Star Wars movie as the home of Anakin Skywalker.
We just reached the dessert as the sun was setting and we had some fun in the dunes with a camera and some sand. Dinner was served in a tent that could easily fit more than 100 people, but it was just the four of us… They did fire up the bread oven that night, a little campfire was all they used to bake their delicious flatbreads straight in the sand. Strangely enough there was no sand on the bread when we ate it, still warm from the fire.
In the morning we go for a spin on the quad bikes to some ruins in the dessert, before climbing a date palm and dipping into the hot springs.
We visit a museum and learn all about the cave houses, local customs and traditional dress. They serve a delicious local lunch upstairs.
We sip some very sweet tea in a cave house, sitting in their living room. It looks pretty cool from above.
Back home, Tim and Martina go back to work and we explore Tunis. Tim and Marina lived near the beach at La Marsa, only a block away from the beach, so we go for swims and some runs. But we also indulge in delicious local chocolate and ice creams. One night we take a taxi to the Cliff restaurant where we have an excellent romantic dinner with the four of us with views over the Mediterranean Sea at sunset, stunning.
After taking the train to the centre of Tunis, we stroll around the Medina amongst the cave-like souq, where you can buy anything from shoes to shisha pipes. We try to educate ourselves in the Bardo museum, located in an old Husseinite palace, where we see more original Roman mosaics, most from Carthage and Dougga, than you can shake a big stick at.
From La Marsa it is not far to walk along the coast to Sidi Bou Said, one of the prettiest spots in Tunis. You feel you might be in the Greek Islands, as the village is full of whitewashed buildings with bright blue window grilles and cascading bougainvillea’s set in steep cobbled streets, often overlooking the ocean. We spent a lovely afternoon here after another excellent lunch in a local café.
We visit Uthina, an ancient Roman-Berber town where the amphitheatre certainly is very impressive. Half dug into the hill, it seated about 16,000 people in its heyday. We rent a car and also cruise to Dougga, another ancient Roman town in the north-west of Tunisia. It is stunningly situated on top of a hill and we spend a few happy hours wandering the original streets in the company of an excellent local guide who is about the same age as the ruins. He manages to bring everything alive for us.
With the rental car we also venture a little further afield and drive to the Cape Bon Peninsula, north east of Tunis. We enjoy a beautiful, if rather windy, hike up to the lighthouse. On the way back we enjoy some skinny-dipping and even get to help some locals who are shearing a sheep in the middle of the track.
Of course we also try to see as much of Carthage as possible, this we do with Tim and Martina on their day off – Friday as it is the first day of the weekend in Tunisia. The site is spread out over a wide area in Tunis, often hidden amongst the modern city. Half the fun is finding them all and shaking off the taxi drivers that insist on taking us to the next site only a few metres away.
On our last day we visit a huge cultural exhibition and left a little poorer as we purchased a cute, bright orange coffee set. Tim and Martina bought a massive beanbag and other things for their apartment. And then, after one final dinner at somebody’s house, it was time to say goodbye again… until we meet again… somewhere… Thanks for a great holiday again!