Moseying through mosaics and final words on Tunis
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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The day we flew to Malta we had a bit of extra time before our late afternoon flight so we opted to visit a blockbuster Tunis attraction, the Bardo Museum. I realize you probably have never heard of the place...neither had I until I saw it in the guidebook. The Bardo is probably the finest collection of ancient mosaics in the word, and they are all from archeological sites around Tunisia. Tunisia is where the ancient kingdom of Carthage was located. Remember Carthage from your history class: Hannibal and the elephant army, the Punic Wars, Romans flattening the city and salting its fields, etc. After the defeat of Carthage in 146 BC, the Romans made the area a province and called it a familiar word: Africa. It became a major source of wheat for the empire and a number of wealthy Roman cities grew here. The Bardo Museum has hundreds of mosaics that originally decorated floors in both Punic and Roman villas, baths, and public buildings built during this time
I have always been drawn to Roman mosaics and seek them out at museums. The Roman artists created such vivid and finely crafted depictions that many times you'd think you were seeing a painting rather than stone. Many of the scenes Romans illustrated were of regular people doing typical daily activities. Maybe that's why I like them so much, normally when seeing ancient art all you see is gods and goddesses and the occasional emperor or king. The Romans often celebrated individuals and the everyday in their mosaics. I was like a kid in a candy store.
After another night at a nice hotel, I was feeling pretty clean, rested and relaxed. You can't underestimate this feeling - especially the clean part. The Bardo Museum was very interesting, and Todd was all about it. Mosaics are fun to look at, but after a while, they all start looking the same to me. Needless to say, I was looking forward to Malta for several reasons: English, "regular food," and beach resort.
Our closing comments and observations on Tunisia.
We did not use the public transportation network in Tunisia, but it looked fairly straightforward and efficient. We rented a car one day and it was very expensive, but the roads were very good and fellow drivers fairly courteous
Understanding French will help you a lot! Unlike Morocco, most people (except hotel clerks) do not speak any English.
It is more expensive than Morocco but still a much cheaper than the US or Europe.
In our experience, the Tunisian people were very friendly and quite hospitable in every way. We never felt threatened, harassed, or cheated (except by cabbies).
Tunisia hardly seems like a Muslim nation. Alcohol is sold everywhere, very few women are in full veil, and most people dress as if they were in Europe. It is clearly much less conservative than Morocco.
Tunis is quite westernized; it has shopping malls, modern hotels, and all trappings of a big city. Many parts of the country are quite rural but we did not have time to see them.
There are a great number of really interesting sites we did not have time to visit as well as a few really cute beach towns we drove through. Tunisia is a place we would really like to come back to in the not-too-distant future.
A few cardinal rules we have learned (or had reinforced) so far on this trip:
1) Be very hesitant to trust a cabbie or give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are at an airport!!! Even though we are pretty cab-savvy, of the 14 cabs we have taken so far, we have been overcharged, shortchanged, or had meter-issues in 6 of them. That's almost 50% of the time!!! Just as a caveat, the grand total we were overcharged probably amounts to less than $15.00, but it's the principle!!!
2) Always arrive at the airport AT LEAST 3 hours before your flight. Check-in and passport control in some of these places is so unpredictable that even with 3 hours lead time we have occasionally been rushed.