There is something fascinating about the narrow hallway of the windy North Africa medina. For most people, such descriptions evoke the image of Morocco – but I can tell you that Tunisia is also worthy of being visualized in the same way.
Hammamet, the last stop of my week long trip across the country, seemed quite busy on arrival, not quite the relaxed, beach resort town I had hoped for. Instead it feels like a place that’s a little more … normal.
But I was very relieved to have succeeded there.
Thanks to some of the bad food eaten at Tataouine, the whole day’s journey back north did not lack the ordeal – I was tired thanks to the night barely sleeping; I am stiff and sore along the way which doesn’t help when you can’t move much in the driver’s seat; I still have a fever; and I experienced a dizzying headache for most of the trip, only lightened by paracetamol given to me by my host at Tataouine. Several times on long, straight and isolated roads, I can feel my eyelids getting heavier which can be very dangerous. The fact that I recognize extreme things
But the danger of what I did – I had thought of not doing a drive at all and living in Tataouine – made me more focused on the road even though I told myself to pull over if things got really bad. In the end, with a little determination, I managed to get past it.
I was really not interested in eating dinner, so I made sure I drank a lot of water and slept at 8pm, didn’t wake up until 9am the next day. If I need it during rest …
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Thank God I’m good enough the next day to explore the city and so I start with the Hammamet tourist spotlight, which is a very beautiful and solid medina – no wonder so many artists are inspired by this place – and it’s interesting that there are some foreigners sketching in inside it. The general light blue scheme in the medina reminds me of Chefchaouen, Morocco. Not only the colors in the medina make it so charming but also its beautiful Arabic-style architecture, the fact that most of them are pedestrianization and lack of pedestrian traffic, inspired by alleyways in Medina, more than a few passageways. artists sketched when I was there.
giving an extraordinary sense of calm – the quality that might have been (and probably still is in the pocket) to exist in walled old cities like Venice and Dubrovnik.
Medina is protected by a fortress wall and the view from the top is very good – the location of the medina beach also adds a strange charisma.
Maybe the only downside to the Medina is that it is full of souvenir shops with peddlers who seem desperate for you to buy something, anything. Although not as severe as their Moroccan cousins, they are still persistent.
From my medina then I walked down the coast to the city beach. I have contemplated having a beach day in Hammamet when I was planning my initial trip – however, as soon as I saw scattered beaches, rough seas and murky water, I decided to continue the idea. The water is also quite cold, so it won’t be fun – but at the hotel resort that I met, it didn’t seem to stop Western tourists from enjoying everything including them. Although it always feels comfortable feeling soft sand. This could be on the Greek Island.
under your feet, it’s far from the best beach I’ve ever seen. Yes, that day.
I did have a rather strange experience when walking back to the hotel.
A car pulled up to the trail and a local man shouted at me, as if he knew me. I looked at him suspiciously.
“I’m the chef of the hotel”, he said to me, “I’m not dressed now so you might not recognize me.”
Now I have not even met the cook at the hotel but because I want to be polite, I really wonder if I really met this man; I gave him the benefit of that doubt.
“I’m going to medina now, because that’s where I live – do you want to go to Medina?”
Even though it has given this person the benefit of the doubt, the lesson you learned as a child about never getting into a car with strangers makes the alarm bell ring – I travel too well to receive a ride from this person.
“No thanks, I walked back to the hotel”, I told him.
I expect it
The cream wall is an old fortress wall, which protects the old city (medina).
to keep ruffling his arms, but surprisingly he let me go and continue the journey.
“Well then, see you later”, he said.
A few minutes later, on a different road, he stopped again.
“Hey, funny to see you again!” he is screaming. “Want to go up to the medina?”
“No, I’m fine”, I replied.
“Okay, see you later!”
I am grateful that he is not more persistent about me getting into his car, but I think if he does, it will increase my suspicion. But I wondered what he would do with me if I accepted the offer of his ride and whether he had bad intentions. I also thought if I really met the man and had forgotten. I concluded that I hadn’t done it yet and maybe I had been bound to visit a carpet shop or something or maybe even be robbed. Thank God I never knew.
And with that, I have finished my short tour in Hammamet. I thought of going into the car again and going down the beach to visit some other beaches and the Dar Sebastian Cultural Center but I still felt a little tired from my food poisoning, so I decided to relax at the hotel only. Besides that, I was driving enough, I didn’t want to have to go back and had to find another parking lot and I had more driving in front of me as soon as I arrived in Greece in a few days. I think if there is a good time to recover from illness then that is in Hammamet; I saw almost everything I wanted to see in a few hours, so now I can take the time to relax and unwind.
It’s always incredible to have a local perspective about places to visit and while he’s not with me in Tunisia, it’s nice to have advice from my Tunisian colleague Safa. He gave me a list of places that were complete enough to be seen and eaten when I was in Tunis and he did the same for Hammamet, which was his hometown.
That night, I felt well enough to eat again and one thing I will say about Imodium is that unless you have something serious, it makes your stomach feel invincible. Therefore I thought that on my last night in Tunisia, I would use this Imodium super power to truly enjoy my last dinner in this country.
I decided on one of the restaurants Safa recommended and when the restaurant closed (and after a man who offered me drugs told me to eat in the medina – as if I would trust a drug dealer and what’s with all the clever people I wanted to enter the medina ?) I decided at the seafood restaurant next door which was also recommended by Safa.
But the results are disappointing and potentially dangerous. I decided to go with the last Tunisian main dish I hadn’t tried, salad mechouia, grilled vegetable salad that had been crushed along with olive oil, with eggs and tuna added on top. I also found that it was really spicy – Tunisia really likes a little kick into their food! I also ordered de mer buah, so I could taste everything. However, I’m not sure how fresh the seafood is – the shrimp looks like frozen and the clams feel a little. It’s hard to finish because I think it will come with french fries and / or vegetables to give a little more flavor and reduce the ‘ocean’ taste that comes with seafood, but everything is really only fried with weak onions and garlic sauce. I know I risk my stomach just to enjoy normal food, but testing my limits by eating super spicy salads and potentially crafty seafood is probably the worst choice I can make.
However, I think Tunisia is very cool – like a much cooler version of Morocco. The relaxed attitude of the people might be best reflected by the fact that Tunisian drivers almost never use their horns!
I can’t help but think, that if I haven’t done so many trips, that I will be more impressed by Tunisia.
Therefore, I still think that this country has a lot to offer and is cheap enough to reach from Europe, but the lack of services and information aimed at budget travelers makes Tunisia relatively expensive. Apart from accommodation costs, I feel Tunisia is quite cheap, because what I have to pay for meals is around € 10 and most of the food is less than half.
So for those of you who are thinking of coming here, I would say that Tunisia is a credible alternative for Morocco.
Now I tend to have the habit of completing my blog entries with cliffhangers; I don’t always intend and this is what is happening now, but what fate awaits me after my ‘last dinner’?
Well, you have to find out in the next travel blog entry …