Hammamet: Kairouan and the Journey Home
By mid morning we had finished in El-Jem. Rather than head straight back to Hammamet on the motorway we took one of the A roads more inland to Kairouan which is considered the fourth holiest site in Islam, due to the Great Mosque. The Great Mosque is the oldest in North Africa. The original Mosque was built in AD 670. However this was destroyed and most of what stands today was built in the 9th Century.
As we didn’t have any maps of the outskirts of Kairouan we got a bit lost. The signs for the town centre just stopped. Luckily we spotted a load of tourist coaches and managed to find out where we were on the map in our guide book. Once again we found somewhere that looked like a good spot to leave the car (it may or may not have been a legal spot we jut don’t know!). We headed into the medina for a wander round. We favored the covered areas as these were cooler. The medina here was much less touristy than some of the others we have been to. It was lovely to wander through the covered streets seeing people making shoes, drums and carpets. Anne then spotted a wool shop. In we went, there was wool of every colour and shade you could imagine. Of course we couldn’t leave empty handed so we came away with enough deep purple wool to knit a jumper. The shop owner was most keen to make sure we had enough wool, as obviously we wouldn’t be able to come back from England to buy more. The transaction was made much more interesting with our lack of French and his lack of English.
When we got back to the car we realised why we had needed to be in the shade, it was 45 C. Luckily the car had air conditioning!! We were a little concerned that we would need our wooly jumpers back at the boat as it is a chilly 32 C most days.
We then went to the Great Mosque.
When we arrived a shop owner came rushing over to us to tell us we needed to go to his shop to see the Mosque as it was closed for prayers. As we hadn’t heard the call to prayer, we politely said thank you, we would like to walk around first. When we got to the Mosque entrance it was obviously open. Anne was dressed appropriately; however as Stephen had shorts on he was required to cover his knees. The mosque had just the thing, a sarong!! .
Finally on the way back we decided to stop at a mountain top village we had been recommended to visit. The road to the top was very steep and windy. It was a case of driving in 1st gear and not stopping. Unfortunately the road suddenly turned into sand. As we slid backwards Stephen ordered Anne to quickly fold in the wing mirrors so we would miss hitting a parked car and avoid sending it over the cliff. Once clear the order to deploy wing mirrors was given – we needed every aero dynamic breaking advantage we could get. Eventually we backed into someone’s drive and had a few seconds to calm down. We decided to give this particular village a miss and drive back home to Hammamet.