Tunisia is home to over 3,000 years of history ranging from the Phoenicians, who founded the ancient city of Carthage to the French in more recent times.
The biggest name in Tunisian history is Carthage – arch rival of Rome in the second and third centuries BC and a Phoenician trading post founded at the end of the 9th Century, that developed into one of the most prosperous and powerful cities in the western Mediterranean. By the end of the 6th Century BC it was one of the main powers of the Mediterranean.
During the second and third centuries BC, Carthage came to blows with Rome, one of the other great powers of the Med, in the infamous Punic Wars. Despite successful battles waged by Hannibal, the general who had lead his army, backed by elephants over the Alps into Italy, Carthage suffered in the final war, when the city was destroyed by the Romans, and its people sold into slavery.
The Romans colonized most of Tunisia, building magnificent towns, such as Dougga and Sbeitla along the way. In AD 436 Tunisia was invaded by the Spanish Vandals, who ruled until the Arabs arrived in AD 670 and spread their power across North Africa. The Arabs were later followed by the Ottoman Turks and then the French in the 19th century. Tunisia was granted independence from the French on 20th March 1956 and Habib Bourguiba became Tunisia’s first President.
Modern day Tunisia is a melting pot of civilizations from the Phoenicians and the Romans of the Ancient World to the Arabs and Europeans more recently, although the Berbers were the original inhabitants. Influences from all of these cultures can be found in different aspects of modern day life.
The official religion is Islam, although there are also small Jewish communities in Tunis and Djerba, as well as approximately 20,000 Roman Catholics living in Tunisia. Tunisia is the most liberal of Islamic countries and the women enjoy more freedom than in other Islamic states. Polygamy has been outlawed since 1956.
Hammams, (public bathhouses), are still a prominent part of life in Tunisia and are seen as a way to unwind and socialize. Every town has at least one hammam, with separate areas for men and women.
FOOD & DRINK
Tunisian cuisine is based on the use of olive oil and spices with the appropriate quantities of ingredients blended together. All recipes use natural products and simple ingredients of a high quality. Frozen foods are shunned and the emphasis is on fresh, wholesome ingredients.
Couscous is the national dish and is a vegetable stew with lamb, poultry or fish served on a bed of semolina. The semolina is steamed and served covered in a sauce. The ingredients of the sauce give each type of couscous its own unique taste. ‘Agneau à la gargoulette’ is another traditional dish and is a delicious lamb stew slowly cooked in an earthenware jar over a charcoal fire. Grilled fish is also favoured due to the great abundance of fresh fish available on a daily basis. Deserts are often fresh fruit or sweet pastries and custards. ‘Baklawa’ is a popular honeyed pastry.
The culture of wine making in Tunisia dates back to Carthaginian and Roman times and has developed over the centuries. Tunisian wine is widely exported throughout the world. There are roughly 20 wineries in the country.
Traditional drink of Tunisia, served with fresh mint leaves and pine nuts in some regions.
The Tunisian climate is a mixture of Mediterranean and African. The climate of northern Tunisia is typically Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Temperatures in July and August can reach as high as 35°C+, with up to twelve hours of sunshine per day.
During the winter there are approximately 5 – 6 hours of sunshine a day and temperatures are in the region of 18 – 20°C while the desert region will always be a few degrees warmer. In terms of annual rainfall, it ranges from 1000mm in the north down to 150mm in the south, although some areas of the Sahara go for years without any rain.
These are shared minibus taxis going to a fixed destination, (i.e. Hammamet – Tunis or Monastir - Hammamet) which leave only when they're full, (which usually only take a few minutes), they are very cheap and regular and obviously popular with the locals. Tourists are very welcome, but they are probably not for the faint hearted. The Louage taxi's terminate in Tunis bus station where local buses/taxi's can be taken to your final city destination.
Reasonably priced and readily available in all main beach resorts. Most cabs have meters, or sometimes you can agree a fare in advance. Note – the taxi fares increase by 50% after 9pm, but are still good value compared to the UK.
No vaccinations are necessary for enter Tunisia. Bottled water is recommended.
PASSPORTS & VISAS
EU citizens need a full passport for stays up to 3 months. Other nationalities should check with the Tunisian Embassy at least three weeks before departure
The unit of currency is the Dinar and it can only be obtained in Tunisia. Cash is changeable in banks, hotels and bureaux de change. Receipts need to be kept to change leftover dinars back. ATMs are available in major towns and credit cards are widely accepted. The exchange rate is controlled so the rate at your hotel should be the same as the banks.
Tunisians have a generally relaxed attitude and casual clothing is worn. While topless bathing is allowed around most hotel swimming pools and on private beaches, respectable dress is required in public and obviously at religious sites.
Arabic is the official language, but French is widely spoken all over the country. Shopkeepers and hotel staff usually speak three or four European languages and English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
UK electrical appliances will work but need a two-pin continental adapter.
Tunisia works on the European standard 220 volts (the same as the UK).
GOLF CITRUS, HAMMAMET
Designed around six lakes and 430 acres of olive trees and forest on the outskirts of Hammamet, Golf Citrus provides a golfing centre with two 18-hole, 72-par championship courses.
HAMMAMET YASMINE GOLF CLUB
Adjacent to Golf Citrus, Yasmine has an 18-hole, 72-par course. With twin lakes and steeped greens, even experienced golfers will find their skills put to the test.
Thalassotherapy is something you just have to try! Thalassotherapy is becoming increasingly popular in Tunisia. It is a medical treatment that uses hot seawater combined with massages, mud or seaweed wraps to promote general well-being, as well as offering relief for stress, arthritis, rheumatism and promoting exercise and slimming.
Some typical Thalassotherapy treatments are:
- Hydro bath - A sea water bath of bubbles and mini jets.
- Seaweed Wrap - Application of a seaweed wrap over the whole body
- Aqua - Exercise in a sea water pool under the supervision of an instructor
- Massage - Relaxing and toning massages (many different types available).
- Tunisia is second only to France in the development of Thalassotherapy.
There are a variety of places to shop in Tunisia. The best known and undoubtedly the most fun are the souks. Each Tunisian town has a souk or a market, where everything can be bought – handmade jewellery, clothes, carpets, shoes, fabric, furniture, pottery, leatherwear and so on. There are no fixed prices, so the key to obtaining a bargain is to haggle! Start by offering one third of the asking price and haggle away - the shop keepers expect it!
The Medina's or old towns, the medina in Hammamet is just a short taxi ride from the Hotel Nozha Beach, the Medina in Sousse is approx.7kms from Port el Kantaoui and are home to the souks and are real living places where craftsmen can be found practicing their trade on the streets and where each street represents a different craft.
Generally the nobler trades, such as jewellers, silk merchants, perfumers and book-sellers are located centrally around the mosque, and the more practical trades, such as pottery can be found towards the outskirts of the town.
The best way to shop in this maze is to wander aimlessly and stumble across whatever takes your fancy.
Don't forget to barter, it's expected. A good rule of thumb is, NEVER pay the opening asking price, whatever price the shopkeeper asks, offer about one third of that (or less) and then let the haggling begin. The shopkeeper will probably tell you he has 5 wives and 26 children to feed but it's all just lighthearted banter. If you still consider the item too expensive, just walk away, he'll almost certainly call you back with a better price and if he doesn't, there are plenty more shops! No matter how awkward you might feel, haggling the price is normal practice in the markets and medina's in Tunisia and it's expected - so just have fun!
If you are not comfortable with haggling, then there are Government recommended shops (SOCOPA) available in the souks, which offer a variety of products, many of which you will find on the streets, all at a fixed price. The shop owners have to conform to strict regulations – prices have to be displayed and employees have to wear name badges. These shops were introduced a few years ago by the Ministry of Tourism, Leisure and Handicrafts and can be identified by the sign outside the shop.
LUXURY SHOPPING CENTRES
Not all shopping in Tunisia is carried out in the souks, there are now numerous luxury shopping centres in some of the major cities, such as Tunis and Sousse.
Yasmine Hammamet is Tunisia’s newest resort. Situated just south of Hammamet, it is made up of predominantly four and five star luxury hotels. Built around a 740-berth marina, it recreates the style of many elegant resorts around the Mediterranean.
There is a sophisticated new medina, with luxurious boutiques, cafés and restaurants, theatres and museums and a fabulous residential complex. The apartments within the site are the epitome of luxury and comfort and surround magnificent swimming pools.
FRIGUIA WILDLIFE PARK
Friguia Park is an animal park, the first ever of its kind in North Africa, located between Hammamet and Sousse. Over one hundred animals live in semi-freedom in this natural park of rare beauty, where many endangered African species live in a protected ecological environment.
Eventually these animals will be released back into the wild. Friguia Park is home to various types of mammals and reptiles, such as antelopes, gazelles, camels, donkeys, lions, ostriches, flamingos and crocodiles. There is also a dolphin show available at extra cost. Park facilities include a restaurant snack-bar and a shop.
BLUE ICE – YASMINE HAMMAMET
The Blue Ice complex in Yasmine Hammamet is spread over three floors and is home to a games room, ice cream parlour, coffee shop, self-service restaurant, fast-food restaurant, as well as the main attraction, Tunisia’s first ever ice rink, which can accommodate up to one hundred skaters in a single session
CARTHAGELAND – YASMINE HAMMAMET
A day in the theme park Carthageland, which opened in August 2003, would take you through the history of Tunisia, from the Carthaginians, Romans and Berbers to the Muslims of the present.
Set in the scene of ancient Carthage adults and children alike can go back in time and relive the Punic Wars, the conquering of Rome over the Alps, a journey through Africa and the Turkish pirates on a number of thrilling rides.