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- Travel to Northern Africa
Traveling To Tunisia
Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa, it is located next to Algeria on its left and Libya on its right. In its heyday it was most famous for its Phoenician city of Carthage and its large and almost unstoppable Navy.
Today Tunisia is a relatively peaceful nation. The last time I was there was in 2006. At that time the President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was still in control. He has since fled the country and Fouad Mebazaa has taken over as President. If you are going to visit Tunisia you should be aware that "Most visits to Tunisia are trouble free, but all travelers should be aware of the current political and security situation, restrictions imposed, and the impact of the unrest in neighboring Libya."
I took a ship from Palermo, Sicily to Tunis, Tunisia. After departing the ship and going through security I was greeted by the beautiful landscape of North Africa. I was very surprised but there were a lot of things a tourist can do in Tunisia. There were gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, camel trekking, visiting filming locations of Star Wars, historical locations, the list just goes on and on.
The first day we located a nice hotel in downtown Tunis. It is a gorgeous city that is very laid back and has great food and culture. I unpacked my bags, took a shower and headed out for some adventure. After finding a taxi I got to visit Carthage. Carthage is absolutely breathtaking. You can visit the historical area, which was my favorite, and you can see how the wealthy live day to day. Even the Ex President had his own seaside residence there. The Carthage Museum and the Acropolium were loaded with Punic displays and many different relics that were excavated. Also on the grounds is La cathedrale Saint-Louis de Carthage (Saint Louis Cathedral). It was built in a Byzantine-Moorish style. It has huge arched ceilings and intricate walls. The church no longer holds worship but I heard it is in use for concerts now.
The second day of the trip I asked the owner of the hotel about the filming locations of Star Wars. He told me which ones were the best and let me know not to get a taxi as they would charge us way to much. He called a friend of his up and said that he would drive us around all day for $20.00. This was an amazing price. He bought me a bottle of Coca Cola and we headed out to Tataouine( for you Star Wars fans out there this should sound familiar,Tatooine). My favorite location was in Ksar Ouled Soltane. This was the filming location of The Phantom Menace which was used for the slave quarters of Mos Espa, where Anakin grew up. After driving around for the day the driver also took me to his house. There we relaxed and got to know one another. Also his mother created an authentic Tunisian meal which was fabulous.
After hanging around Tunis for a few more days I headed out to Douz. I wanted to do some camel trekking. After finding a company that I liked I waited around to see if any other tourists were going to go as well. It seems that normal people go trekking for half a day to a day. But I wanted the full week experience. After a couple of hours two french women had joined our newly built party. We had bought plenty of water and got our Lawrence of Arabia garbs and headed out with our Bedouin guides. The Sahara desert really is amazing, especially while riding a dromedary (Arabian camel) in the middle of nowhere. Sand as far as the eye can see. After traveling close to sunset we got off of our camels and set up camp. The tents are basically 6 branches with a blanket over them. The first night was a little creepy as we saw plenty of scarab beetles. Which normally wouldn't have bothered me. But after watching the movie,The Mummy, it can freak you out a little. Even though scarabs really eat dung and not flesh. After we set up camp the guides taught us a how to make Tunisian bread. This was very interesting. We took dough and rolled it out and kneaded it. Then we dug a hole in the desert and buried it. After the warmth of the sun and the sand over night, the bread would be ready by morning. Then they gave us some already made up soup and we sat around a campfire night after night talking, sharing our experiences, and playing music. If you ever get the chance to go on a camel trek, I recommend that you go. Just remember that the desert gets very chilly at night.
After trekking I hopped on a bus and headed back to Tunis. On the way back we stopped in the middle of the desert and got stolen Libyan gas from an individual. This was interesting. This guy had 55 gallon barrels of petrol with sandy covered blankets over them. Then he would take a much smaller barrel dip some petrol out and funnel it into the bus. Once back in Tunis I hung around for a few more days and enjoyed the markets. The market is something like a few miles long, the thing twists and turns and goes on forever. If you have ever saw an old movie where the good guy is chasing after and trying to save the damsel in distress while running through an old marketplace in the desert. Then you will love this place. It is jammed pack with color, haggling merchants, browsing tourists, trinkets from great wealth to junk, and many boys trying to squeeze through with their overloaded carts. There are many ways to buy trinkets at the market. The best one I learned was to put 20 Tunisian dinar (dinar is their dollar) into each pocket and then just keep haggling. I spent maybe $200 there and had more than I could carry.
On my last day there I did some site seeing not far from the airport and got to experience some spectacular views of the Mediterranean sea. Also I got to try date palms and prickly pears. They have acres and acres of date palms. The Tunisians are pretty clever as well. They take huge muslin bags and pull them up over all of the palms. Then when they mature they fall off and are ready for travel. If you ever are in Africa I highly recommend going to Tunisia. There are so many places you can see, places you can go, and people that you can meet and enjoy your time with.