South of Tunisia and the Sahara desert trail we found a huge desert. It wasn't a sand dessert, but rather one made of salt. Chot El Jerid extends dozens of kilometers and we crossed it through a long, straight road. At one point we stopped on a "strategic" path at a souvenir stall (mostly desert roses), in the middle of nowhere. I was struck by these strange, yet cheerful services in contrast to that remote and lonely place. A worn down, destroyed boat shows that this salt desert located in southern Tunisia was navigable. Depending on the time of year, the place is flooded by the rains. The salt creates strange light effects. It was dawn and I couldn't miss the opportunity to try to reflect on the beauty of that moment.
Chebika is, along with Tamerza and Midès, one of the three most famous mountain oasis in Tunisia. Its main attraction is a picturesque fountain, located at the bottom of an old Berber village, with small palm trees and a waterfall. It feeds a few underground streams and a network of underground channels that supply wells, through which fruit trees are grown in an otherwise completely barren territory. This oasis owes its prosperity to a sophisticated irrigation system that ensures balance and keeps an equitable distribution of water to all fields. There was a curious room (behind the public toilets) which had a peculiar clock consisting of two pitchers that were hung on strings at different heights to allow the water out from one to the other. Based on the time it took to fill the bottom pot, a gate opened or closed the irrigation system. The best way to explore Chebika and the palms is up the rocky path that leads to the ruins of the old city, where there is a magnificent view of the Lower Atlas mountains, forming a canyon of 150 m high with palms at the bottom. Then you go down rock stairs to a beautiful canyon. The path leads to a small waterfall that feeds a spring. Return via the path that runs along the canyon and climb the stairs again. Upstairs is a "touristy" area with stalls selling drinks and souvenirs. We came up here on a 4x4 trip that we hired in Nefta.
The Roman amphitheater in El-Jem is the largest in Africa and the fourth largest worldwide. In my opinion it is better preserved than the Coliseum in Rome, because at least it is possible to go down to the sand and go through the aisles. The lion pits are preserved and the complicated system of cisterns. It's a must see if you visit Tunisia, its size and beauty are really impressive. It represents the best legend of the Roman Empire in this country along with the baths of Carthage and the Bardo Museum in Tunis. One recommendation: try to photograph at dusk, when the light makes the red stand out even more than normal.
The medinas are the heart of the Arab cities. They sleep, eat, and socialize here. On this trip I visited Tunis's medina and also the capital of Sousse, further south. While it was the first place I wanted to visit, most of the tourists came here as well. The souks also sell lots of souvenirs and are very traditional.
We went to Tunisia with a friend ve has lived there for over 25 years and now lives in Spain. His family lives in Monastir, so we chose this town to make our start. His family was amabilissima and they treated us like kings, they had a fleet of taxis and the family was dedicated to it. The first day we spent at Monastir, for its souk, by the port, we smoked shisha at a café and had tea. And then we went to visit the Ribat. It's great. Next door is the cemetery of Monastir, where the father of our friend happens to be buried. We went to visit his grave. Most are made of tiles, or sometimes just a pile of sand. We saw a funeral, and there was a line of people waiting for the dead relatives to give them bread. We were told by our friend that was a tradition. Then we entered the Ribat, with amazing views of the city and the ocean. It was constructed in the year 796. You can access everything. We climbed up the highest tower, Nador and the views were amazing. One could see the immensity of the ocean, the promenade next to the cemetery and the mausoleum of Bughiba, a type of mini Taj Mahal, which was constructed in Bourguiba for burial. It is worth a visit, and my friend told me that was the scene from Life of Brian.
The Capitol is considered one of the most beautiful Roman buildings throughout Africa. It was built in 167 AD and was dedicated to the gods of Jupiter, Minerva and Juno (the Capitoline Triad). It consists of a sanctuary preceded by a portico, which is accessed via a monumental staircase. In this portico are six preserved fluted columns topped by Corinthian capitals, whose tympanum is carved with the image of a man kidnapped by an eagle. The interior space measures 38.5 meters long by 24 wide. The background houses a colossal statue of Jupiter over 6 feet tall (whose head and feet are exhibited in Room Sousse Bardo Museum) and images of Juno and Minerva. Under them is a three-nave crypt, later used as Byzantine church.
You will feel the weight of history in the ruins of Carthage, but only if you love it. If not, what will call your attention is the havoc and extreme carelessness that have developed over time in a place that should be of importance. With the passage of time, some looting can be understood. What is extremely disappointing is to find that this UNESCO World Heritage Site (1979) has been ignored to the point of obvious decline. The ruins are scattered, often at the side of the road and, more often still, buried under the Tunisian "jet". The Presidential Palace itself, which must have had fabulous views of Carthage and the sea, was built on the tanks that fed the baths of Carthage. Unfortunately disappointing.
The best part of Tunisia are the blue waters so clear and warm. It's a calm place that still isn't fully exploited by tourism. There's also a luck factor, since we were told there was a lot of seaweed on some other local beaches. Our only gripe was the two jellyfish which stung us, but the mosquitos were basically non-existent. The hotel staff gives you a cream which takes the sting away. You can also do jet-ski, be towed by boats, go sailing, etc. But afterwards, there's nothing better than laying down a comfortable chair with a comfortable mat on under a sun umbrella doing nothing more than listening to the surf and getting a tan.
The truth is that with an organized excursion you do not have much time for anything, and in my case I had a few hours less to visit the city. It is a pity that the baths have not been better preserved because in their time they must have been impressive, for this reason they were the second highest in importance throughout the Roman Empire.
When I was at the beach I went to a club hotel ideally situated. Never been to Tunisia nor in Djerba but I found it all very pleasant. The beach is very good and, above all, the sea is beautiful! The Mediterranean with its green and blue, and a rather pleasant temperature ... Just thinking about this I want to go again!
The Bourguiba family mausoleum is one of the main attractions of Monastir. It was built in 1963 and later expanded. The former Tunisian president and his family rest here. This huge and beautiful marble building with a gold dome has two 20 metre tall minarets flanking its sides. But the most striking is the wide promenade that leads to the mausoleum, which is lined with Tunisian flags. Do not miss it.
They are still expanding and renovating some of the facilities. It's a huge, spacious place, with high ceilings, perfect for enjoying the stunning mosaics which are displayed there. They are located both on the walls and on the floor, therefore you have to wear a protective cloth on your feet. It is one of the biggest and best preserved collections of Roman mosaics in the world. The museum is a little out of town but it is still a must if you pass through Tunisia.
This mid-sized city is located in Tunisia. Its main attractions are the Medina (old market), The Great Mosque (one of the oldest in the world), and Sidi Saheb zaouia ("Mosque of the Barber"), which is home to the tomb of a companion of the Prophet. Supposedly, they have had three of the hairs of his beard preserved as relics.
This imaginary city, created with plaster and cardboard, records some of the scenes from star wars. It's quite a small place, but it awakens your curiosity. Cozy and cute, you can visit this place in half an hour ...
Muslims come to Kairouan not only from other Tunisian cities, but from different parts of the Arab world. The fourth most important mosque for Muslims in the world after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, the Grand Mosque of Kairouan which was built in the ninth century, is the oldest in North Africa. It is visited for several reasons. Located on the edge of the medina, when you almost leave the city, a huge tower-minaret stands out against the clear sky. Surrounded by brown and bare walls, from the outside it does not look like the typical Moroccan or Turkish mosques: in fact it looks more like a fortress. But upon entering the courtyard with marble slabs one is amazed by its beauty. Impressive is the colonnade that surrounds the courtyard, the endless arches, and gateways to the prayer hall. The Grand Mosque was, for me, an incredible discovery. Not only for its architecture but because it also exudes an atmosphere of infinite recollection.
Matmata troglodyte houses are definitely a must-visit place. The structure alone is impressive, with a central courtyard of different emerging "corridors" dug on the land itself and leading to the different rooms. They usually have a lot of animals out the front of the house, such as chickens, horses, donkeys ... The lifestyle they have may surprise you, as it seems to be one of extreme poverty. In time you realise that for them the things we consider essential are completely unnecessary in their daily lives.
All the mosques in Tunisia pay homage to Ez-Zitouna, the city's main mosque. The building that we can see today is a fascinating fusion of buildings from different periods, with columns and capitals from ancient Carthage, an Ottoman minaret and Zirid domes. Non-Muslims are only permitted to access the central courtyard, from which you can make out the hypostyle hall. However, just from seeing this one, you get an idea of the grandeur of it. Although I personally prefer the smaller and more accessible mosques, it is also good to contemplate those more formal and monumental mosques. A recommended place if you go to the capital.