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Old 08-06-2005, 19:58   #1
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Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

(I was going to put this in my blog but can add photos here and Busman can add to it too when he gets up and running again.)

We started our Honeymoon in Sousse at a lovely "small" family owned hotel with a private beach. Our room overlooked the beach as you can see by the view from our window.

In spite of being a small hotel it still had an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. The rooms are arranged around the pool and the reception area like in a Roman villa around a central courtyard.

The third photograph is a couple of local shops at the corner of the street, one which sold cold drinks and was a life saver for me as the hotel despite being in a muslim country could only offer very fizzy coke or very sticky sweet non-alcoholic drinks. It wasn't until the very last day that we discovered somewhere which had non-acoholic lager.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg View from our window001.jpg (46.1 KB, 52 views)
File Type: jpg Our hotel003.jpg (80.0 KB, 46 views)
File Type: jpg local shop004.jpg (80.7 KB, 59 views)
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Old 08-06-2005, 21:48   #2
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

They are lovely pictures willow, but can i ask why i can only see about 5 people on the beach surely a beach as lovely as that would be busy?
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Old 08-06-2005, 22:37   #3
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

That was the evening we arrived and I think everyone who'd been there the previous week was in the dining room and the new arrivals like us were just settling in.

On the bus which took us from the airport to the hotel we were told that the best way to get around town was by yellow cab and that there was never any need to hail a taxi as they would hail us. Never a truer word spoken. They would even come down the hotel driveway to see if anyone wanted to go anywhere. Dare to stop when out for a walk and a taxi would pull up at the kerb beside you. Even when we'd just stepped out of a taxi at one point another one pulled up hoping to take us somewhere else! They are also incredibly cheap but still like to overcharge the tourists but we'd been warned to make sure they had the meter running.

Here you can see a few of them outside the medina wall. The medina is the old town with very narrow streets and no traffic. (a bit like York but Tunisian.)

And not far from our hotel was "The Rose and Crown" which described itself as an English pub, only it wasn't. It was a Tunisian pub with an English name!
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File Type: jpg English Pub007.jpg (86.6 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg Taxis 011.jpg (60.8 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg Taxis 012.jpg (68.9 KB, 24 views)
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Old 09-06-2005, 01:05   #4
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

oooo but dosn't it look clean.
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Old 09-06-2005, 07:05   #5
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

Most of the towns are very clean. Look at this open "square" inside the Sousse medina. This is in an area where there are take-away kebab stalls etc, but there are also litter bins and people use them. It's not necessarily the same in some of the places outside the towns where there are some areas of rubbbish which spoils it.

There are a lot of feral cats but the stall holders tend to look after them, feed them and give them water and there's a Tunisian version of the RSPCA which keeps an eye on them. You still can't help feeling sorry for them tough. Occasionally some people treat the cruelly but that is rare. Some are semi-adopted by the hotels and live out in the gardens. They can't be very hungry either because although they do scrounge from people they are also fussy and if thy don't like what's on offer they'll turn their noses up and walk away.

Here are some of the shops in down town Sousse.

The carpets are all handmade either woven or knotted. They take months to make and some are very very expensive but beautiful. They are mostly made of wool but some are silk. They range in sizes from a bedside rug to something large enough to carpet a baronial hall.

In front of the second shop you can see a bucket containing small date palms for sale. We are repeatedly told that these should not be bought as they cannot be brought back through customs because of the risk of spreading plant diseases to other countries where the fauna has no resistance. The stall holders would tell us that it isn't a problem, just put them in a plastic bag to keep the roots moist and hide them in your suitcase! Imagine our surprise to see a man in the airport on our way home carrying one large as life on view to all and sundry and not stopped either in Monastir or Manchester! So much for keeping diseased plants out of the country.

Hanging outside the third shop you can see the famous Sidi Bou Said birdcages which I fell in love with. They are handmade (as are most things in Tunisia) and traditionally painted white with little blue spots where the metalwork is joined together. The blue and white are traditional colours. Most of these you see here are unpainted which are apparently more popular with the tourists (except me). As soon as I saw them I wanted one as I have a toucan which I could just see sitting on a swing in one of the blue and white ones. Not a real toucan I hasten to add. Busman kept insisting that we'd never get one home, not one big enough for the toucan but I asked a holiday rep and he said lots of people buy them and just ask for them to be put on the plane with the pushchairs etc. That clinched it! I was having one.

The one we bought is about 3 feet tall so you can imagine the overall size. It featured quite prominently later in the holiday. Tunisians keep real birds in them, usually canaries or other song birds in smaller ones so they asked me what size of bird I wanted it for when I was trying to decide how big of a cage I needed and when I said a toucan they looked at each other to confirm that they'd understood correctly! One even did a symbolic beak impression to his friend. I didn't try to explain that it isn't a real bird, so from then on they probably thought of me as the crazy English woman with a very unusual pet!
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File Type: jpg Square022.jpg (77.2 KB, 46 views)
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File Type: jpg Shop018.jpg (87.7 KB, 18 views)
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File Type: jpg Shop 019.jpg (98.8 KB, 26 views)
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Last edited by WillowTheWhisp; 09-06-2005 at 07:28.
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Old 12-06-2005, 15:34   #6
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

Not being the kind of people to just sit around a pool or lounge on the beach all day we had decided to hire a car and explore some of the real Tunisia, having experienced the Sousse traffic from a taxi the first day we thought we'd try a short jaunt first of all and see if we could survive a trip to Monastir. There apparently are rules of th road but no-one takes much notice of them, including pedestrians who seem to prefer to walk in the road rather than on the pavement (which in some places is understandable)

We didn't like Monastir as much as Sousse and it was a bit smelly in places but we did discover the local market where they had the most wonderful fresh fruit for sale at ridiculously low prices. There was a label on a pile of strawberries which said "800". 800 millims? With 1000 millims to the dinar and a dinar equalling less than 50p we wondered how many strawberries could possibly be on offer for 800 millims. One? Or was that actually 800 dinars for the whole crate of them? The stall holder spoke only Arabic and the only Arabic I know is 'hello', 'goodbye', 'thank you' and 'no' so conversation was rather limited. Eventually we realised he was asking how many we wanted so we pointed to the sign and he began to scoop up piles of strawberries and fill a carrier bag sized white plastic bag while we cringed wondering how much that lot was going to cost................it was 800 millims! We bought a bag full of lovely sweet apricots too for one dinar. It was unbelievable. No wonder they make so many thick natural fruit drinks with fruit being so cheap and plentiful.

It was just outside of Monasatir where we thought we'd found evidence of the Arndale clock having been dismantled. On one of the roundabouts it looked for all the world like our familiar globe. Just about the right size too.
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File Type: jpg 1globe.JPG (42.8 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg Monastir074.jpg (54.8 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg Monastir079.jpg (64.9 KB, 45 views)
File Type: jpg Monastir 080.jpg (46.3 KB, 34 views)
File Type: jpg Margaret's Photos 073.jpg (71.4 KB, 15 views)
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File Type: jpg Margaret's Photos 076.jpg (74.3 KB, 14 views)
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Old 12-06-2005, 23:01   #7
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

This is a golden statue in Monastir of Habib Bourguiba, who became Tunisia's first President after the country gained its independance from France on March 20th 1956. He was born in Monastir and educated in Tunis and Paris where he studied law. He would have been president for life but for suffering ill health. A local in Monastir told us that he suffered from Alzheimers. He brought a great many changes to the country and although some of his rules and regulations were considered severe and restrictive by some there's no doubt that the country benefitted a great deal under his leadership. He died in 2000 and his mausoleum is also in Monastir.

On November 7th 1987 (I think that was the year) the current president Zine el-Abidine ben Ali took over and he continues to bring Tunisia into the 21st century. He sort of put his position on the line by encouraging democracy but he always gets voted for anyway as far as we can tell. Most hotels, shops etc have a picture of him in a prominent place, looking all sort of serious and military with a very flash uniform and it's usually quite an old picture with him looking incredibly young. The first impression I had of him was that he was probably some grumpy old geezer who rules with an iron fist and still wants people to think of him as a dynamic young thing, then one night in the hotel there was a program on TV where he was doleing out awards (a bit like the Queen awarding MBEs) and it surprised me at firt that I recognised him from the old portraits, but also that he seemed a much kinder looking person, someone who did genuinely seem to have the country and its people's best interests at heart.

When people tell you of all that he has done for them regarding education, employment, road building, and building up the image of Tunisia as a desirable holiday destination which brings in much needed foreign revenue, not to mention the government assisted oases where irrigation is organised and planned with water pumped up from below ground for the crops you begin to realise why he is so well liked and appreciated. He's a man with vision who sees it through. At present it is very difficult for Tunisians to leave the country even for holidays. He doesn't want people to be leaving the country with the risk of them not coming back. The majority of Tunisians are in their 20s and younger and he wants them there to build a better future for themselves and future generations.

Everywhere you go the whole country seems to be under construction but we learned that this is because they don't do mortgages. If you want a house first of all you save up and buy a plot of land. Then you save up and build a one room dwelling, after which most people get a TV and a satelite dish before they save up to build the next room and so on - they always seem to be in the process of extending and so most of the newer houses are constantly under construction. There are also a lot of purpose built tourist resorts consisting of hotels and little else along some of the lovely coastal areas and the hotels are incredibly beautiful, but even so we preferred our location in Sousse which gave us the best of both worlds. An old established town/city with the newer facilities tagged on.
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File Type: jpg habibbourguiba.JPG (22.8 KB, 49 views)
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Old 13-06-2005, 08:06   #8
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

Some lovely pics and narrative to go with them. I like to know a bit about what I'm looking at when I'm away. Maybe we should go into travel writing..
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Old 27-06-2005, 08:10   #9
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

Heehee, maybe we could have a sideline Lettie.

Now, where was I with Tunisia?

Oh yes.

Once we'd mastered the art of travelling by car in Tunsia we decided to travel further north and explore Cap Bon. That's the northern peninsula, which is the most fertile part of the country. We'd mentioned our intentions to Nabil, the Panorama rep who gave us his own road map as the one we'd got wasn't too brilliant. It didn't have many roads marked on it and his was much better.

I think by this time he'd given up on us behaving like conventional holiday makers after we'd gone off on our own to buy a carpet. He was sure we would have paid over the odds as it is necessary to haggle over everything and they start out with vastly inflated prices but we'd simply stuck to our guns and told then "No, that's too much. We haven't got that much to spend" I'd wanted a green and cream carpet with maybe a little gold in it but they'd kept bringing out red ones and blue ones which simply wouldn't do in our dining room. All this went on for ages until they brought out a green one and mentioned some ludicrous price so we pretended to get up and leave. Then they managed to find a cheaper one but I told them I didn't like it. We were being entertained with cold drinks and shown a whole shop full of carpets. Eventually they showed us a green and cream carpet which I did like and we battled the price down to a fraction of what they'd originally asked. When we showed the rep a picture of the carpet he asked what we'd paid and what quality it was. (That goes by how many knots per inch) We told him and he said "Pounds? Not too bad I suppose" and when I said "No, Dinar" (there are over 2 dinar to the ) he whistled slowly through his teeth and said "Wow!" so then we knew we'd got a good deal. There's no chance of us ripping them off because if we don't offer enough then they simply don't sell it and away the carpet goes. We'd arranged for it to be sent to us by air to arrive a few weeks after we got home and we were a but apprehensive about whether or not it would arrive OK but it came last week safe and sound.

So, we were off up the north with our road map and sense of adventure. Nabil had suggested we do a little detour inland and visit Tubourbo Majus which is a Roman excavation site so we headed in that direction first. Once we'd left the main towns and tourist areas we felt like we were in the real Tunisia with its interesting little villages and isolated farms. We stopped to photograph one lovely scene at Takrouna a local woman came to ask if we'd like to photograph her and a baby. We thought that would be nice so Busman took the photo and suggested I give her a dinar as a tip (we'd been told to offer people a dinar if we took their photo) but she wasn't happy with one dinar, she wanted another one. I thought Oh, OK then and by then I was in the car so I wound the window down to pass another dinar through to her. She reached in and made a grab for all the change on the dash board! There wasn't much but I was so narked that she would do that. I'd put it there to pay the fees on the toll roads as we passed through them. I wound the window up on her to try to stop her getting it all and as I did so her brooch (a large silver thing holding her cloak at the shoulder) got caught and I pushed it back thrugh the window to her. I was later called a numpty by Mimi who said I should have kept that to make up for the money she'd nicked off us!

Here you can see the carpet, area I'm talking about round Takrouna and the thief in question! "Crimewatch Tunisia" If you're ever near Takrouna keep your eyes open for her.
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File Type: jpg Margaret's Photos 017.jpg (106.6 KB, 26 views)
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File Type: jpg Margaret's Photos 094.jpg (70.9 KB, 17 views)
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Old 27-06-2005, 08:13   #10
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

Can you see the size of that silver brooch? It's kind of under her right arm.

Oh and something else I forgot to mention. The hedgerows are not bushes, they are cacti.
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Old 11-01-2006, 23:03   #11
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Re: Sahara Stories and Tunisian Tales

I could continue this tale in my blog but as I'd got so much of it written here already I think I'll just resurrect this thread and post the rest of it here, hopefully soon before I forget what it was like. We've still got the Sahara side of things to come and my encounter with the dreaded CAMEL.
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