Welcome to Tunisia!

The ship docked into the port of La Goulette, Tunisia at about 8:00 am. It was an amazingly beautiful sunny day. We got ready, and soon after breakfast, we left the ship so that we could come back in spare time for lunch at the ship. (From our past experiences, we realized that the ethnic counter in the buffet serves the local food of the the country we are in. We figured the food served in the ship would be safer to consume, in all accounts, so we didn’t want to miss that!)

Outside La Goulette Village



La Goulette is about 15 kms from the city center of Tunis. It is the main port of Tunisia. The impressive port terminal is called the ‘La Goulette Village’. I figured that tourism plays a great role in the economy of the country. It is an enclosed area where you get the first taste of Tunisia. There are lots of shops selling quality souvenirs. It also has several cafes, spas and duty free shops.

A shop in La Golette Village!


Our entry into the port, was heralded by costumed men with camels and falcons. For a small charge, you could have a camel ride and pose for a picture, with a falcon on your arm. We promised Zain that we will get him a camel ride, but first we needed to head out to the city!

La Goulette Village, Tunis


Being US citizens we did not require a visa to visit the country, however, my in-laws who are Indian citizens had picked theirs before the travel. Our passports were checked upon arrival and we were all given a tourist card to be presented back to the officials upon exit. (To our surprise, they were not collected!)

Street of Tunis with military vehicles and tanks 


We spent a good amount of time looking for a 6 seater taxi, and finally got 2 taxis. Much to our relief, the taxi drivers were extremely nice and helpful. We discussed our interests in Tunisia with them, negotiated a price and finally drove to Tunis. Our first stop in Tunis was the Medina.

Outside Medina 


Medina : It is the older part of the city. Thickly populated, I instantly compared it to the tight alleys of ‘Chawri Bazaar’ in Old Delhi! The hustle and bustle of the Medina is amazing. However, it can be very intimidating for someone who has no such experience. I would have to admit, that Zain, my 12 year old, was pretty nervous and held on to me throughout our walk in Medina.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Medina


The Medina has an overwhelming varieties of things for sale. It ranges from clothes and silver jewelry to fine carpets and pottery. As we kept walking deeper and deeper into the alleyways, we kept getting more and more surprised. We did buy a few things from here. Abbi, enjoyed haggling with a shopkeeper for a ‘hookah’ that I liked, while manjli Ammi negotiated a good price for a few silver bracelets that she had sorted out. We wanted to go further deep into the Medina, but decided to walk back. I was later sad to have missed out on the famous Mosque, at the end of the Medina.

Sidi Bou Said



Sidi Bou Said : Our drivers then, took us to Sidi Bou Said. This was my favorite spot on our excursion. Located on the gulf of Tunis, Sidi Bou Said, is a very pretty village on a  steep hill, which overlooks the emerald green, Mediterranean Sea.

White washed houses with contrasting blue doors and windows



Clean and bright, the white washed houses with blue doors and windows, on a clear day (like today!) are indeed a treat to the eyes. I was especially excited to see lemon and orange trees in abundance over here. Some of these houses had beautiful bougainvillea flowers planted outside. It sure is an artists’ dream!

Walking in Sidi Bou Said


Our drivers had parked the taxis at a central location and had asked us to walk up the paved roads. We were amazed to see shop and cafes lined up by the street. It sure is a trap for tourists. We noticed several families from our ship and figured that it is very popular among day long tourists. 

Colorful Pottery

There were little shops of colorful pottery, tunisian clothes, silver jewelry, mosaics and artwork. There was also this particular shop of great interest to me….it had a variety of dates, saffron and nougats. I samples several kind of nougats and also bought just enough to snack while we shopped there. 

Vendors at Sidi Bou Said



There were little cafes serving shawarma sandwiches and local desserts and refreshments.The kids bought some drinks from this shop. Just like, the Medina, haggling is must here! I was amazed to see both Ozy and Zain do the same.

Hamsa

Ozy, who is a new driver, bought a ‘Hamsa’ key chain for himself. ‘Hamsa’ is a palm shaped amulet very popular in North Africa and is believed to protect against the evil eye. I bought a Turqoise bracelet for myself, while Abbi haggled over the fairly popular, red cap called ‘Chechia’ and wore it throughout the day!

Some serious business!



We unexpectedly spent a lot more time than we had intended to in Sidi Bou Said. Consequently, we did not have much more time for some other attractions. We hurried to the taxi and the driver took us for a quick view of the Carthage.

Carthage


Carthage :  Carthage was an important city in the Roman times. Originally a trade city, it was later conquered by the Romans.What is left behind is the ruins of the important city. It mainly consists of Roman sites such as theaters, temples and baths. Amongst them, probably the most impressive is the Roman Amphitheater.

More Carthage!


By the time we were done with the Carthage, our stomachs were growling and it was now time to head back to the ship for some authentic Tunisian food. On our way back to the port we also stopped to take pictures of the New Mosque in Tunis.

New Mosque, Tunis

All in all, I think it was well worth to have an opportunity to at least have a glimpse of North Africa. The country which has been ruled by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans and the French and hence has a lot of History. Although, the shopkeepers and vendors can become quite a pain, people in Tunisia are generally warm and friendly.

My favorite pick of the day: Hercules in action!


As promised, the last thing we did before boarding the ship was allowing Zain to have a camel ride. He was really pleased.

Camel ride at the port!  Notice the ship in the background!!



As our stomachs growled once again, we headed for our lunch back into the ship.

Ciao Tunisia!


Advertisements