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Friday 29 March 2013

A quick taste of Tunisia

When I went to grammar school in England, many years ago now, students were divided into four "houses" - Rome, Athens, Troy and Carthage, representing the great ancient civilisations. 

Carthage is now a suburb of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, so when we sailed into Tunis's port of La Goullete on the MSC Preziosa, I felt compelled to take a shore excursioion, even though I generally hate beng herded on and off buses with dull-witted folk unable to remember if they are on vehicle eight, or nine.

Our four-hour tour took in the "typical fishing village" of Sidi Bou Said (pictured below), pretty with its traditional blue and white-painted buildings but awash with persistent sellers of ceramics, rugs, leather goods and various nicknacks of dubious quality.  

These dudes don't like taking no for an answer - and they are all blokes. Even in the local coffee shops the women are noticeable by their absence. Best tactic against hard sell: either a Campo shuffle or a Colin Meads charge. 

The archaeological ruins of Carthage, often abutting modern residential developments, are, however, fascinating. The remans date back to the 6th century BC and it was from here that Hannibal crossed the Alps to take on the Romans. The ancient baths and amphitheatre are well worth exploring. 

It's worth noting that the city of Tunis itself is around 20km from the port of La Goullete, where cruise ships dock. With time limited, you may well have to choose between the Medina quarter and shopping, or taking in some history.  

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