Sidi Bou Said / Carthage / Tunis
Our first full day in Tunisia: we walked up to the delightful old town of Sidi Bou Said with its characteristic white buildings with blue studded doors and intricate window grilles (white to protect from the sun, blue against the mosquitoes). We were able to look back down to our boat in the tiny marina way below. The town’s charm obviously makes it quite a tourist destination and, as you might expect, there were plenty of French about. After obtaining some much needed dinar we took the local train to Carthage but were a bit confused by the fact that 5 stations in a row all had the name Carthage pus something else! We plumped for Carthage Hannibal (seemed like a logical choice) and did find our way to the main museum more by luck than judgement. The museum is on the highest point and marks the centre of old Carthage, although there is little left of the original city as the Romans thoroughly destroyed it. More atmospheric we felt, were the remains of the old port dug by the Carthaginians to take their navy, and a Punic “sanctuary” full of headstone sized monuments in a peaceful setting (at least until the next tourist bus arrived).
Later we returned to Sidi Bou Said and drank the sweet, fragrant local mint tea with pine nuts floating on the top in an establishment where you kicked off your shoes and reclined on high mat-covered seating. It felt very north African, especially with the hookah-smoking going on too.
Sidi Bou Said, harbour and village:
Tunis was quite an experience, only a half hour, 30p train ride away, but truly another continent altogether! Our first time in a souk, and being pressure sold a local rug. Actually we thoroughly enjoyed it, from being picked-up by a local “free” guide (a “tip” of about £4.50 as it turned out), shown round the government run shop with its amazing roofscapes over the souks, through to parting with a relatively modest sum for an amazing camel hair, hand woven & embroidered rug (destined not for the boat’s floor I hasten to add). Once on our own, we managed to get lost, repeating the same alleyways several times, and not finding a single building of interest open to view. Ho hum, it was still fascinating and worth the effort.
Tunis - roofscapes:
The Turkish Mosque:
It has been great fun trying to use some French again after many years – and finding the locals as bemused by our attempts as are the French themselves. Prices are a surprise; away from the tourist areas everything is dirt cheap (25p for their rather wonderful sweet mint tea, £1.30 for 2 coffees & pastries). In the tourist spots however everything is just as expensive as Sardinia (the previous high point) – e.g. £3.60 for 2 foul beers, £8 for a coffee, an orange juice and 1 pastry!