Tunisia offered surprises

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
Various hotels in Tunisia

Flag of Tunisia  , Ariana,
Thursday, October 4, 2007

TUNISIA is a good host to tourists with its modern hotel accommodations, the mix of the old and new, and friendly people.   It's a country that was influenced by ancient Roman, Arab, Berber/Phoenecian, and its long coast on the Mediterranean Sea.  We enjoyed most of the major cities, many of the important inland sites, and stayed at a seaside resort to enjoy the water after our visit to the desert.   We covered a lot of ground during our 14-day tour that included Gammarth, Carthage, Dougga, Tozeur, Douz, Matmata, Djerba, Sousse, Monastir, Rabat, and back to Tunis.

We were told that Tunisia is one of the most visitor-friendly North African country, and we were able to ride their camels and trains, in addition to the huge bus that accommodated all 36 passengers that included two guides.  The 34 in our group were pretty much compatible and on time - most of the time. 









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The first three nites were spent in Gammarth, about a 25-minute bus ride north of the Tunis-Carthage airport..Our first day tour consisted of a quick drive-through of downtown Tunis, a visit to the Bardo museum that was the former palace of the Tunisian King.  The Bardo houses one of the largest collections of Roman mosaics in the world that dates from the 2nd to 4th centuries.  After the museum, we did a walk-through tour of Tunis' medina (old town) that have been designated a UNICEF World Heritage Site. In the afternoon, we were coached to Carthage to see the Punic Ports, Roman amphitheater, and the Roman baths of Antoninus Pius.  On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in Sidi Bousaid (home to painter Paul Klee), a village perched on the cliffs above the Mediterranean sea.


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DOUGGA:   

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On our way to Tozeur:


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Our main tour of the day was Sbeitla, site of the Roman town of Sufetula.  Christians settled here in the 3rd century, and the Church of St Servus as erected here.

TOZEUR:







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We had a walking tour of Tozeur to visit the souks, the zoo, and the Dar Chraiet Museum.  In the evening, I took the optional dinner-show with belly dancers and fire-eaters.  

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On the following day, we rode on the Red Lizard train for a ride through the gorges and canyons of Metlaoui, and rode on 4-wheel drive vehicles into the Sahara Desert to visit Seldja Gorge.


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That evening in the hotel bar, we met a film crew from the Czech Republic making a film called "Tobruk" about WWII, because many Czechs also fought during the war, but many were not aware of this fact.



DOUZ:


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On our way to Douz, we had a horse-drawn carriage ride in Degueche under the lush palm trees with a visit to a private orchard of palm trees, roses, grapes, and other flora. As we continued our journey, we crossed the great salt lake (Chott el Jerid), where we were introduced to the Lord Mayor.   Many of the residence in Douz immigrated from Sudan.

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In the afternoon, we rode camels with Bedoins in the desert followed by a cocktail party.

They shot two Star Wars movie here:
 



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DJERBA:




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The drive from Douz to Djerba took about seven hours, but the stops we had during the trip made this stretch of road seem worth the while.  The oldest synagogue is believed to be from the 6th century BC. 

SOUSSE:



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We stopped for lunch in Sfax, the second largest city in Tunisia. Our primary tour site today was El Jem, the Roman amphitheater designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 




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We spent the last three nights of our tour at the L'Orient Palace Hotel in Sousse.  Our tour included an optional tour to Kairouan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a visit to the Great Mosque, the oldest in Africa.  It is also the fourth most important mosque to believers of Islam after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.   Four visits to this mosque is equivalent to one visit to Mecca. 
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We had a morning drive to Monastir, a seaside town, and the birthplace of their former President, Bourguiba, to visit the Ribat, a fortified monastery dating from the 8th century.

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We also visited Bourguiba's mausoleum.


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Habib Bourguiba was born in 1903, and was proclaimed its first president in 1956, and held office until 1987 when he was declared mentally incompetent.



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We also visited Port el Kantaoui, a pleasant port with yachts from all over Europe. 
 
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Surprise video: I'm not sure what's on this video.

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Our final event was a home-hosted dinner at a doctors' home; the husband is a professor of medicine at the local university, and the wife is a forensic doctor.   They have three children, and the oldest is now attending medical school.

TUNISIA is the largest exporter of dates, and agriculture occupies half of the countries total area.  Twenty five years ago, only 750 students attended college.   Today, they have over 350,000 students in college.   Tunisia has the only Pharmacy college in Africa.

Hope you enjoyed this "trip" to Tunisia.

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