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'Wish You Were Here!'

Updated on June 6, 2020
Stella Kaye profile image

Stella has travelled widely throughout the Mediterranean and owns a holiday home there. She has written extensively about the region.

Sun, Sand and Sea

Sun sand and sea
Sun sand and sea | Source

My Travels in Tunisia

It’s great here. Everything I could wish for walking on my own but still lonely for you. Strolling along the sands hand in hand with you would be wonderful but I can’t see that I’d ever get you near a beach and even then you’d worry about the sun on your lily-white skin. Wish you were here anyway. I'd write that on my postcard to you but no doubt you'd scold me as it's such a cliche.

There’s a piece of artwork on the wall in my room that reminds me of you. Just a simple but effective painting in blue of a smiling, Arabian prince releasing a bird from its cage.

You can walk to Hammamet from the hotel: Les Orangers. The sand is the best you could find anywhere in the world. Why bother with long-haul to the Caribbean when the beaches here are less than three hours away from mainland Britain?

The Mediterranean is clean, clear and calm today. Yesterday was stormy so now the hotel groundsmen are tidying up their bit of the beach leaving it pristine for the sun worshippers who are out in force already, going more red than the brown they desire. Here I’ve seen black people burn. What hope for the little blond girl I spotted building a sandcastle? Her back red and her mother oblivious. Learn the hard way when malignant melanoma strikes in years to come.

I watch as paragliders take to the air suspended above the sands, legs dangling ungainly below their parachutes, looking as if they are some kind of airborne jellyfish.

Everyone is friendly here. You’d like it. ‘Hello, Madame... come look... I will make you special price’, says the carpet seller.

I’ve been here before and don’t fall for the spiel this time. ‘Only if they’re magic carpets,’ I reply.

I also say no to the guy selling sugar-coated nuts. All I crave in this heat is water – and you.

I’m sure you’d like it here; perhaps better for you during the months when the sand is not so hot to walk upon. Do something daft like forget your flip-flops and you end up tip-toeing from one shady patch to the next if you can find any. A paddle along the shore is so relaxing with the sea lapping at your ankles. Forget your worldly woes momentarily at least.

The galleons are out now; they are authentic enough but the modern variety has engines. The pirates are actors but they’ll make you walk the plank soon enough with a prod from a convincing-looking plastic sword. A quick dip in the Mediterranean and they’ll feed you a slap-up lunch of fresher- than-freshly caught fish straight from the sea to the onboard barbecue in a matter of seconds. Then they’ll send you on your way with a souvenir photo and a plethora of happy memories. Watch them climb the rigging to disco music with all the agility of Tarzan.

A perfect end to a swashbuckling day.

Always there is something new here to spot as I’m people watching on this idyllic beach between the hotel and the Medina. There are stables at the hotel so a gallop along the sands is possible too as a change from walking. I’m sure you’d like that too, but being Blighty-bound of your own volition prevents you.

There are no catamarans here like there were further south in Port El Kantaoui where I was last year; too windy for them here – they capsize all too easily. Tell that to the captain of the catamaran who put to sea in a storm last year with twelve of us on board. I was the only person who complained. I’m too wise to the locals to be your usual compliant tourist. Too stubborn he was to return to port and no doubt he'd have been reluctant to give me my money back. All the other vessels were heading for home at the first sign of storm clouds gathering over the port but no, he thought he knew better. I don’t know much about seafaring but I do know the basic rule that any sailor putting to sea in a storm in such a small vessel is a dammed idiot and I told him so too.

There is all manner of pleasure craft here from speedboats to jet skis then there are the traditional fishing boats that will take you on a pleasant trip around the coastline at Hammamet. Here you can see the old ways preserved amidst the opulence of five-star hotels.

People here seem happy with their lot in life even if they live quite frugally by British standards. It’s a harsh existence for most away from the tourist hot spots. No social security here. Get off your backside and work or your relatives will have to support you until you find something productive and lucrative.

The locals come to the beach in the evening; you’ll rarely see them here in the heat of the day and I’m sure they’d agree with Noel Coward’s lyrics about mad dogs and Englishmen.

Local women are rarely seen in public; by my reckoning, they must be indoors making carpets. Living here is a different experience from the narrow fortnight’s snapshot into another culture perceived by the average tourist.

I wish you were here to discover more of this place with me – you’re not here now, but maybe one day - who knows?

Hammamet Beaches Are Some of the Finest in the World

Al fresco dining at the Bel Azur hotel, Hammamet
Al fresco dining at the Bel Azur hotel, Hammamet | Source

I still believe I hear

Hidden beneath the palm trees

Your voice tender and deep

Like the song of a dove

Oh night enchantress

Divine rapture

Delightful thought

Mad intoxication, sweet dream

In the clear starlight

I still believe I see

In between the long sails

Of the warm night breeze

— Georges Bizet

Hammamet Amphitheatre

The  bel Azur amphitheatre as it was before refurbishment
The bel Azur amphitheatre as it was before refurbishment | Source

The Hotels in Hammamet are Full of Character

Each Hammamet hotel is unique
Each Hammamet hotel is unique | Source

Fun in the Sun

The beaches in Hammamet are great for all manner of water sports and  paragliding
The beaches in Hammamet are great for all manner of water sports and paragliding | Source

Hammamet Tourist Video

Tunisian Highlights

Apartment Rental Versus Hotels

Although the hotels in Hammamet are hard to beat and are as opulent as any holiday accommodation can be, a hotel environment is not for everyone. Some may prefer the freedom that an apartment rental allows. You can also have more opportunity to discover a little more about the culture and traditions that the locals will be happy to share with you. You will have to visit local shops to buy your food rather than rely on the all-inclusive option most posh hotels have on their tariff. You will certainly learn from mingling amongst the locals who buy fresh produce daily to produce healthy meals. Here there is not a freezer centre or ready meal in sight although as an alternative you may be confronted with the occasional cow's head dangling outside a local butcher's shop!

An apartment may be ideal for those wanting to discover more of the area without the restrictions of a hotel but is not for those who wish for nothing else other than lounge on the sands or around the pool all day resting from their usual routine back home. The beauty of Hammamet is that there is the option to enjoy the best of both.
It is wise to remember however that the summer months are so oppressively hot that travelling more than a few paces from any source of water will render you incapable of doing anything very much. During this time, it's wiser to luxuriate around the pool rather than do any serious sightseeing.

Take a Trip on a Pirate Ship and Walk the Plank!

The pirate ships are a common feature in the bay of Hammamet
The pirate ships are a common feature in the bay of Hammamet | Source

© 2014 Stella Kaye


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