Relaxing at a Thalassatherapy spa
Boats in the harbour at Port El Kantaoui
Tunisia makes an ideal short break destination as it is only a two and a half hours flight from the South of England. While being very hot in the summer, it offers sunbathing weather in the spring and autumn, and several hours of sunshine in the winter.
Its biggest drawback is that Arabic and French are their main languages, and outside the hotels people may only speak a smattering of English. However, the people are nice and friendly, and crime is taken quite seriously by the authorities so it is a comparatively safe place to visit.
We stayed in Gammarth, one of the smarter suburbs in the north of Tunis, the capital, which is by the sea, and only a 30-minute taxi ride from the centre. Many of the hotels in this area provide a free shuttle service into town for their guests. However, if the times are not to your liking, then taking a taxi is really cheap, costing just a few pounds to get you into the centre of town.
There is only one main street, with a rather grand mosque and the Medina, the old walled city originally built around 700 ad, at the end of it. Even if you are not a Muslim, you
are permitted to enter the courtyard of the mosque.
Within the old city are the covered markets (souks), a labyrinth of winding streets which have been designated
a unesco World Heritage site. The souks – and there
is usually one in every town you visit – are an ideal place
to hunt for souvenirs and presents, although the quality
of the merchandise is questionable.
Bargaining is a ‘must’ as there is no set price for anything. The asking price is always loaded, so if you like haggling, this is the place to do it. Hannah, who was with me, managed to bargain down a silver-looking bangle from 30 dinar to just
10, equivalent to about £5. Martin was very pleased with
his cloak, which he had bartered down from 60 dinar to just
20, but was then rather disappointed when offered the same garment for just 15 at another little shop.
It can, however, become very annoying when you are continually pestered to come inside to see what they have
to sell, particularly as a lot of the merchandise is the same wherever you go.
The food market is worth a visit, if just to admire the mountains of fresh vegetables. However, we couldn’t help feeling sorry for the live chickens in their coop, who must know that their time will soon be up after seeing some of
their friends’ heads chopped off when chosen by a customer.