Country number: 11
Territory number: 13
When? A long time ago
Who? With Don, mum, and sister, Catherine
‘If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?’
- This was my first trip to Africa and a first brush with Arab culture. There were a lot of jokes about how many camels I might be worth. I had also hoped it might be a chance for some spring sunshine. But the weather was disappointing- it wasn’t really warm enough to sunbathe.
- We stayed at the seaside resort of Hammamet, making several trips out.
- Tunis, the capital city and the famous Roman remains at Carthage. This once centre of the Punic empire nestles in the suburbs of Tunis. Carthage is famous for controlling much of the Western trade in the luxurious purple dye from the murex shell. Most of the ruins are Roma or later. There are the usual temples, theatres, an amphitheatre modelled on the Roman Colosseum, numerous baths and temples, and a circus. Tunis is a good introduction to African cities. It has minarets in abundance, crumbling palaces, culture and a suitably chaotic soukeasy to get lost in.
- The UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Kairouan was founded by the Umayyads in 670. As well as more magnificent palaces it is famous for the Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba with columns made from marble brought from the ruins of Carthage. This is a more genuine souk experience, locals intermingling with tourists in the carpet bazaars and glittering metal workshops. There’s also the huge El Jem amphitheatre to the south west, and we skirt Sousse on our way home.
- An ‘authentic’ Arab feast in a nomad’s style tent with belly dancing for entertainment. We ate brik, roast lamb and couscous. I’d read about brik- egg in a batter envelope- and I bit into it over excitedly, explaining what it was as I did so. The yolk ran all down my front.
- Hammamet too has its own architectural legacy, a medina. City walls and a distinguished roll call of visitors including Winston Churchill (that man went everywhere) and Sophia Loren.
The population of Tunisia is almost entirely of Arab and Berber descent (98%).
Tunisia was part of the Phoenician Empire, with Carthage being defeated by the Romans in 146 BC. The Romans occupied Tunisia for most of the next eight hundred years until the Arab invasion, completed by 697. The Ottomans followed between 1534 and 1574 and held sway for over three hundred years. The French colonization of Tunisia took place in 1881.
Tunisia’s northernmost point is Cape Angela and this is also the northernmost point on the African continent
The Tunisian Sahel, a broadening coastal plain along the eastern Mediterranean coast, is among the world’s premier areas of olive cultivation.
Star Wars, Jesus of Nazareth, The English Patient and Raiders of the Lost Ark have all been filmed here.