On 15 September, we returned from a two month vacation to Canada and took respite from the heat in Tunisia. This strategy mostly worked, but a hot spell started up as soon as we arrived! A few days ago, we (Diane, Kevin and I) took a one-day excursion to actually see the sites in Tunis. Although we have passed through, or driven to Tunis (to fetch our luggage), we had not yet taken the time to see the city.
Downtown Tunis looks very similar to many streets in France or Italy, with large stone buildings, shaded walkways and trees.
We started with Tunis’s old Medina (an old walled part of an African town) classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – entering through this gate in the city wall (which has largely vanished through history).
Founded in 698 around the original core of the Zitouna Mosque, the old Medina of Tunis continued to develop throughout the Middle Ages. Today, it is a bustling, crowded narrow shopping “lane” (I hesitate to say street), where you could spend a day wandering around and looking in shops.
We stopped at the exterior of the Zitouna Mosque, but unfortunately it was closed. This mosque is the oldest in the city and covers an area of 5,000 square metres with nine entrances.
There were other places of worship evident, a synagogue and this cathedral, for example.
Later, we drove to the neighbourhood of Sidi Bou Said, a picturesque village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Known for its cobbled streets and blue-and-white houses, Sidi Bou Said is a charming town on a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean, with al fresco cafes, Tunisian eateries, and small art galleries.
Lastly, we visited the ancient city of Carthage which offers a superb view of the surrounding coast. It’s predecessor ancient Carthage was one of the most important trading hubs of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the classical world. The city developed from a Canaanite Phoenician colony into the capital of the Punic empire which dominated large parts of the Southwest Mediterranean during the first millennium BC.
Ancient Carthage was completely destroyed in a nearly-three year siege by the Roman Republic in 146 BC. It was re-developed a century later as Roman Carthage, which became the major city of the Roman Empire in the province of Africa. It was one of the largest cities of the Hellenistic period and was among the largest cities in preindustrial history. Whereas by AD 14, Rome had at least 750,000 inhabitants and in the following century may have reached 1 million, the cities of Alexandria and Antioch numbered only a few hundred thousand or less. Carthage and Alexandria Egypt were the next largest cities in the Roman empire. Sadly, history has not been kind to the remaining amphitheatre.
As an added bonus, our guide (Najd) stopped by Port Yasmine Marina in Hammamet on the way home. We have heard many good things about Port Yasmine Marina, but the reason we did not stay there is that historically – there was little, if any, of a live-aboard community. It seems that most cruisers berthed their boats, and flew home. This is not what we were looking for. However, it does seem to have one now, and although slightly more expensive than Monastir, does look to be in much better condition. It has a 150T travel-lift and very good protection from swells. I have heard though that with the presence of super yachts, the management are much more fussy about contractors working in the yard, and it is consequently more expensive than the popular Port-a-Peche (fisherman’s harbour) at Monastir.