Just the name of Tunisia alone evokes romantic images of desert moons, Mediterranean houses on top of hills and the enchanting sand dunes of the Sahara. If you search on Travel + Leisure or any travel website, I’m sure you’ll find good reasons to go to Tunisia. But if you’re looking for reasons that go a little bit beyond fancy international resorts like Yasmine Hammamet, or “desolated” beaches with rows of people running on four-wheeled motorbikes, than please listen to Stanito 🙂
We came back last week from a fantastic road trip in Tunisia, almost 8 days, and we covered almost the entire country. What’s even more amazing, we almost crossed to Algeria (as the edgy side of our trip, was either that of Libya). All you need is (a) car, (b) the best travel buddy, (c)cooler filled with beer (and water), and (d) thrill to explore.
So, if you ask me, you should go to Tunisia because:
1- You’ll find beautiful desert, mountains and sea all in one place.
Needless to say, how easy it is to find one country with all this biodiversity? Salt lakes, desert, beaches and mountains, in a country that is half the size of Italy. Just take the car and in almost two hours you’ll drive from turquoise beaches to dry salt plains.
2- You’ll find the weirdest yet most adorable, unusual places for your accommodation.
At some point during the old government, dear reader, tourism and local life were kept at distance, so lots of international areas were created with fancy 4-5 stars resorts with obviously high-priced restaurants, resembling what you find in Europe. Honestly, they are essentially sterile hotels that you can find anywhere in the world. If going to Tunisia, consider either the troglodyte hotels if driving south, or the uphill narrow street hotels if in the north side. Only there you’ll find the real taste of Tunisia.
3- You’ll meet the Magic Camel.
The Magic Camel will make your day. The Magic Camel is a brilliant clay handcrafted jug that you can find in souks. It’s called magic because you can pour into it two different liquids (from the top and the bottom) without spilling anything, and get the mix from the jug’s end (the camel’s head) as if it was a teapot. I brought one home for my neighbors, it ended up being a very funny way of entertaining people at the table 🙂
4- You’ll find the most anonymous and oldest synagogue of North Africa.
Tunisia hosts the oldest Jewish community of North Africa. In Djerba, you have one of the oldest synagogues ever, symbol of the Jewish community, but strangely with almost no typical Jewish features, leaving this impressive temple almost anonymous.
5- Chileans will find their “empanadas” Arabic counterpart, which is actually really good.
My Chilean fellows might not take this as good news, but it’s true! Try the brik, deep-fried parka pastry filled with raw egg, onion, tuna/lamb, looks very much like a typical empanada de queso. Delicious.
6- Star Wars pilgrims will find their intact movies set right there.
After much confusion (Tataouine? Tatooine? Is it still here?), much pilgrimage, and almost lost hope, we managed to find the original set for Star Wars: New Hope, yes dear reader, the very first movie of the series, dated 1977. For the Star Wars lovers, Tunisia is the way to go. In my next post I’ll show the map depicting EACH movie location that has inspired George Lucas for New Hope and Phantom Menace.
7- You get to fly over the desert with a true Italian pilot.
You can fly over the Sahara with no fancy airplane, no tour arranged. We met the nicest guy ever, Luciano, proud pilot and owner of the cutest aircraft I’ve ever seen.
8- You’ll find Berbers hillside ghorfas and ksars.
The Ksour, the arid southern region of Tunisia, is home to the Berbers, nomad indigenous of North Africa, who live in ghorfas (grain storage little chambers) built in clay, stone, reed and wood.
9- You’ll find the third (and most beautiful) Colosseum in the world.
My fellow Italians will probably protest on this statement, but I promise you’ll find the El-Jem Colosseum a lot better preserved and nicer than the one in Rome: clean, kept in very nice conditions, hardly any tourist, and more intact.
10- You’ll find a very amusing men-only fish market, that will make your day.
I saw no woman there other than me, and there was one man that looked like the King of the Fish Market: all eyes on him! You want fish? He’s your man.
11- You’ll find the most preserved mosaics collection of North Africa.
Do you know what happens after you all the above wonders? You just don’t want to leave and try desperately to hold on to a street sign for Algeria! Sadly it didn’t work…