A route from the Mediterranean coast to the oasis of the south.
Mediterranean by history and culture, African by location, exotic and fascinating without discussion and today, again, blissfully quiet and cozy. This is Tunisia, a country in North Africa, more longer than wide, offering travelers a coastline of golden beaches, colorful souks, a patrimonial wealth, saline lakes and one desert, the Sahara, with an spectacular oasis and velvet dunes.
Once in Tunis, capital of Tunisia, after a walk in the city inherited from the French colonial domain of the nineteenth century, we will have to visit the Medina, the old quarter, declared a World Heritage Site (1979). Hidden inside beautiful mosques, zawiyas (Koranic schools) and souks grouped by guilds: a treat for the eyes and the nose trapped in spices, and a paradise to buy crafts. It is also essential to explore the Museum of Bardo because it has the best collection of Roman mosaics.
Since the capital is easy to make two trips of great interest. The first to Carthage, at 17 km, for see the ruins from what was a rival of Rome, until its destruction (second century BC). And nearby is the beautiful Sidi Boud Said, a white and blue town, with evocations of Moors and smell of jasmine, here is a tradition to take an aromatic tea.
The south coast
We started the trip to Hammamet, about 60 km of good road and looking onto the gulf of the same name. The city is a gem that combines the history of its walls and its Kasbah, and charming narrow streets full of souks and cafes. In Hammamet begins, moreover, a succession of bright sand beaches that unfolds to the south.
The next stage is Sousse, of Carthaginian origin, then Roman, Arabic later and now the capital of Tunisian Sahel. It has a medina with lots of history, great to buy silver jewelry and pottery, and a tower of the Kasbah that gives a view of not to forget. The site also offers sparkling beaches where hotels to suit all budgets are aligned.
Visit to Monastir
At only 25 km, sliding toward the Mediterranean, we arrived at Monastir. The town retains a beautiful ribat (fortified Muslim monastery) of the eighth century which today houses an Islamic museum; the Ribat and the city were chosen by the Monty Python to film the Life of Brian in 1979.
Birthplace of Habib Bourguiba (1957-1987), leader of the tunisian independence and president of the country for 40 years, Monastir benefit of such circumstance, becoming a place of splendidly conditioned vacation. Its urbanisme, the marine cemetery of literary evocations and the visit of its monuments, ensure you an attractive stay that can be seen in the port, discovering the local cuisine based on fish and seafood, couscous, lamb stews and the famous brik, a delicious crepe filled egg.
Beaches, fishing ports, vaulted streets, souks full of crafts, the coast of Tunisia is a delight, but now we must leave it and travel inward, toward Kairouan, at 160 km from the capital. Holy city of Islam and World Heritage Site since 1988, its Great Mosque (VII century) houses a Hall of Prayer with more than 400 columns topped by arches. Barbero Mosque is another essential place in the visit to Kairouan. Before continuing the journey through the Sahel, a recommendation for fans of Roman ruins: at 70 km from Kairouan will find the amphitheater of El Jem (III century). It is the largest in Africa, the fourth largest in the world and one that has been preserved in better condition.
The route enters increasingly bare land, where occasionally glimpsed some shepherd with herds of goats or camels and villages carved into the ocher mountain ridges. They are about 200 km traveled by a SUV.
The door of the desert
After the long absence of the oasis, the first to appear is that of Tozeur, with a palm grove and a viewpoint from which you can admire sunsets of fire. At one step is situated Nefta, another tempting oasis that has the same brick architecture with geometric drawings and other palm grove to get away from the world, involved in the noise of ditches and fountains . Tozeur is the starting point of getaways that last from hours to several days. One of the most typical crosses the Chott el Jerid, a lake with guarantee of mirages. It is also possible to see the white dunes of Douz on camelback or balloon, and travel through time to visit Berber villages, many converted into hotels and scenarios of movies like Star Wars and The English Patient.