I know it's a little off our route but what the hey!
17.05.2006 30 °C
Whilst back in England for a few weeks got itchy feet and thought I'd do a little side trip with my mate Skippy before heading back out East.
Knowing nothing about Tunisia and never having considered Africa before Skip suggested it I was a little unsure of what to expect in an African Muslim country but absolutely loved it.
Perfect mixture of sights, ruins, scenery, beer and partying.
I didn't realize just how many old Roman ruins are in Tunisia (the Colloseum in Gladiator is actually in Tunisia, El Djem and it's in better nick than the one in Rome)
We stayed at Port El Khantoui which is just North of Monastir on the Mediterranean Sea. The beach was beatiful, clear blue waters (although a bit damn nippy for my liking!) the hotel was ok, decent enough for the price we paid with a good pool, decent grub and a good bunch of people, ranging from a bizarre grinning old Malaysian couple we made friends with to a group of 14 or so mad Pompey college girls (complete with ASBO's as they proudly boasted) on a week long bender.
First few days we spent wandering down the beach, eating and drinking at the port watching the ships come in (very Otis Redding!) which bizarrely are all mock pirate galleons (apparently Roman polanski filmed his classic movie Pirates here, nope I'd never heard of it either!)
Then we went on an organised trip which pretty much covered the whole damn country. We started out at El Djem (big colloseum thingie) before heading out towards the desert and seeing loads of old Berber villages and houses cut into the rock walls or made out of mud. That's where we first saw Clint! One of the guys on the tour was a dead spitting image of Clint Eastwood and even dressed like him (ie in Jeans and blue shirt Bridges of Madison County style, not Good bad and Ugly!) SO perfect was he that we did actually think it was him until he spoke to us and had a Mancunian accent!
Anyway after driving all the way into the Sahara Desert we passed lots of film sets including where they shot all the Tatooine scenes in all the Star Wars movies (the village there is even called Tatouine (Thieving Gypsey Plaguraist George Lucas!) and where they filmed Life of Brian. Loads of old Roman ruins etc. We got to go on a camel ride into the sand dunes. The heat was unbearable and camels are bloody uncomfortable even though we were only on them for an hour or so. I'd hate to do a proper 4 day trek on the buggers!
We also went in a horse drawn carriage ride around an Oasis, went for an off road session in 4WD's out into the mountains where they filmed The English Patient and loads of walks. Pretty knackering 2 days during which we got about 2 hours sleep (well we had to get drunk after the camel rides as we were thirsty!)
Anyway after than it was a day chilling out by the pool followed by more beers thena trip to Sousse, the big market town just down the coast. A day of haggling there with Skip's few words of Arabic and my basic french and we had bags full of tat that's we've since stuffed in cupboards never to be seen again (stuffed camels, shish pipes, sand in jars, etc etc)
Then we headed off on the train to Tunis the capital hoping to get to see the old Carthaginian ruins. Didnt manage more than a whistle stop tour though due to ridiculous train times (less than 3 hours in Tunis) so we ran around it like madmen stopping only for some strong Arabic coffee and some more obligiatory haggling of course!
Apparently we missed a solar eclipse too whilst we were there, must have been rubbish though as we didnt notice it!
Well after a major drinking session on the last day (involving us getting kicked out of the pool at about 3am and drinking more whiskey and beer than we thought was humanly possible thanks to Hassan our pet barman) it was time to head home.
All in all an amazing trip, perfect mixture of fun and history and although somewhere I probably wouldn't go back (pretty much seen it all now there) would def recommend it to anyone. As it's a secular society women have equal rights and they have no issue with alcohol for tourists) everyone should enjoy it.