The History of Carthage
The more I travel within the Mediterranean region, the more I realise that it was the centre of the world for quite a part of the history of our species. That should really come as no surprise. Early humans left Africa for the Middle East some 45,000 years ago, and, after enduring the heat of the Middle East, they journeyed towards the cooler climate of Europe and soon hit the shores of the Mediterranean. With its temperate climate, fertile shores and abundant waters, it became a region where our species could survive and thrive. Until the past couple of years, the Tarxien Temple ruins on Malta were considered to be the oldest in the Mediterranean. However, recent discoveries in Turkey at Gobekli Tepe have put Malta’s claim in doubt. Nevertheless, humans have inhabited the shore the Mediterranean for at least the last 10-12,000 years.
From about 1500BC to 325BC, the predominant force in the Mediterranean were the Phoenicians. So called because of the purple colour of their cloaks, the Phoenicians originated from the cities of Tyre and Sidon in modern day Lebanon and Syria and, over the course of 1,200 years established major outposts throughout the Mediterranean. Once such seat of power was Carthage in what is nowadays Tunis in Tunisia. Carthage, the centre of the Carthaginian Empire, grew out of the original Phoenician outpost and rose to prominence as a major power in the Southern Mediterranean. Sacked by the Romans in 146BC, Roman Carthage was literally built over the ruins of the original city and both sets of ruins can be plainly seen even today.
How To Get There
The easiest way for me to get to Tunis, was to drive from Basel to Lyon and catch a direct flight from there (I always use Skyscanner to check flight options). So, at 6am I boarded my flight from Lyon, France to Tunis, Tunisia. A flight of just under 2 hours, this saw me arrive at the Sheraton Tunis in time for breakfast. Like most countries in that region, I find breakfast without bacon to be a miserable affair. Nevertheless, I tucked into a breakfast of olives, cheese and merguez sausages in order to try and fuel up for the day.
What I did in Tunis was hire a wee chap ( Mr. Habib +216 98 218 815) with a car to drive me around for the 4 days I was there. If memory serves, he charged me about USD $75 per day which made this a fairly inexpensive venture. He spoke very little English and I speak very little French. But he understood enough English and I understand enough French to make this a workable solution. I would suggest that this is probably your best option and gives you the most flexibility to see what you want around Tunisia.
Punic Harbour / Carthage
One of the first places to stop is the Punic Harbour. Tiny by modern standards, this is the harbour where the Romans sacked the Carthaginian navy in 146BC as part of the siege of Carthage during the Third Punic war. It is quite something to stand in this harbour and picture the clash of sword and shield some 2,000 years ago. Large columns lie on the ground as a reminder of the great structures that once gave Carthage its proud stature.
The Roman Baths in Tunis
Built right atop the ruins of Carthage, the immense Roman Bath structures stretch across the beachfront along the shores of the Mediterranean. With a few dollars you can hire a guide from the entrance to the complex, and they can bring this massive bath complex to life. The massive furnace structures below ground, where slaves fed wood and coal into enormous fires to heat the baths and the ceramic floors, now lie open and exposed for all to see. Previously kept out of site from delicate Roman eyes, these underground caverns were home to hundreds of slaves who toiled there to give their masters a pleasant spa experience.
Above ground however, with the pleasantly warmed bath complex and the view over the turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean, life must have been pretty good for the Romans stationed in Tunis.
The Grand Mosque of Tunis
Mr. Habib suggested that we visit the incredible El Abidine Mosque in Tunis. He dropped me off at the main entrance and told me he’d wait for me in the car park. So in I wandered, a little bit unsure about where I could go and what was appropriate or not. As I walked around the internal courtyard, a caretaker came over to me and started asking me questions in French that I didn’t follow. I asked him in French if he spoke English. He said no, but then said in German that he spoke German. And bingo, with a common language we were off to the races! He offered to give me a tour throughout the Mosque complex. I’ve been in quite a few mosques over the years and countries, but never had a tour behind the scenes. So this was an offer too good to refuse. I was taken on a tour through the mosque, the library, the rooms where the Imams rest and relax and a heap of other rooms behind the main prayer hall. He hit me up for a few dollars at the end though – I knew that was coming – but it was well worth the small investment.
From Tunis to Sousse
The following morning we headed from Tunis to Sousse - a journey of around 2 hours by car. Along the way we stopped at the walled village of Hammamet. Now a tourist town, the fortified walls of this town fended off many Spanish attacks throughout the centuries and this town was also used by General Rommel as one of his headquarters during his North African campaign during the Second World War.
Sousse is a town that expanded to cater for the huge influx of tourists from Europe. However, since the terrorist attack on the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel at Port El Kantaoui, the tourist trade came to an abrupt halt. There is so much infrastructure in place in Tunisia to cater to European tourists, and yet there are none. On 26 June 2015 a terrorist disguised as a tourist, attacked and killed 36 unarmed Mediterranean tourists at the Spanish-owned five-star tourist complex situated on the coast about ten kilometres north of Sousse. The Government afterwards admitted that police response was slow and since then, tourist numbers have plummeted. So, if you’re looking for some cheap deals on beach resorts on the Mediterranean, Sousse has plenty!
Where to Eat in Tunis
As I live in Basel, I am starved for fresh Fish. Eglifilet doesn’t really cut it – unless you get them fresh in Yvoire on the banks of Lac Leman! So, I was given a tip regarding the fish restaurant La Falaise in Tunis. It is located up on the cliff with unobstructed views overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean. Here, I had one of the best fish lunches I’ve ever had! Amazing fresh a varied seafood from the Mediterranean to my table. Definitely must visit if you are in Tunis!
Another food suggestion and another must visit is Dar El Jeld in the old town. A wooden door leads into a Roman-Style internal courtyard. They serve a selection of local dishes in an amazing Tunisian ambiance. This place is a must-visit when you are in Tunis and it is very popular – so please make a reservation!
Where to Stay in Tunis
As far as hotels are concerned, I stayed at the Sheraton in Tunis. This was perfectly fine. It is Sheraton standard, clean and safe. However, if I were to go again, I would try out either the Four Seasons or the Moevenpick, both of which are on the shores of the Mediterranean. The Sheraton was a perfectly fine hotel, but it’s neither in town, nor on the beach. I think that with the view of the Mediterranean, the Four Seasons or Moevenpick would make your stay a little bit more special.
Lynn and Andrew Mitchell are 50-something travellers who enjoy travelling in comfort through some pretty interesting places. We started Einhorn Travel Accessories because of our passion for travelling the world, seeing amazing things and enjoying unique experiences together. We believe our extensive travel gives us a unique perspective, and we understand how important it is to have the right gear. We source travel accessories from around the world and offer them on one site. We would really appreciate you visiting our store and making a purchase or two.
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