Tunisia: detailed travel guide

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Tunisia: detailed travel guide

Tunisia (Arabic تونس), or the Tunisian Republic (Arabic الجمهرية التونسية) is a state on the Mediterranean coast in North Africa. The territory of the state is 163 610 km², the population is 11 434 994 people (data of 2017). Tunisia is part of the so-called countries of the Maghreb, or the Arab West. In the west, Tunisia borders with Algeria, in the southeast – with Libya. A third of the territory is occupied by the eastern spurs of the Atlas Mountains, the rest of the country – savannas and deserts.

On the territory of today’s Tunisia, ancient sites of primitive man were found, founded more than 200,000 years ago (Kelibia region, Cape Bon). In 1100 BC. BC-600 BC e. Phoenicians founded the legendary cities of Carthage, Sousse, Utica and Bizerte on these lands. Carthage becomes the main city of the Phoenicians in northern Africa. Carthage was founded in 814 BC. e. Already by the 3rd century BC. e. he became the largest state in the western Mediterranean, which was subordinate to southern Spain, northern Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. Soon after the wars against Rome, Carthage lost its power and was destroyed in 146 BC. e.

Bizerte

Bizerte

In the 7th century, the Arabs appeared in Tunisia and founded the commercial city of Kairouan. Later, Tunisia became part of the Ottoman Empire. From the end of the 16th century, the power of the Turkish sultan became nominal, the country was ruled by independent beys, who founded the Muradid dynasty in 1612. In 1705, power in Tunisia passed to the Husseinid dynasty, the country became an independent state. However, in 1881-1883 Tunisia was under the protectorate of France, and it was only on March 20, 1956 that it managed to free itself from the influence of which. The monarchy in Tunisia fell in 1957.

Today’s Tunisia is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with about 7 million foreign visitors visiting it annually. For tourists, Tunisia offers excellent opportunities for a beach holiday, which can be successfully combined with health improvement (the country is famous for its excellent modern thalassotherapy centers) and acquaintance with the historical treasures of local architecture.

Climate and weather in Tunisia

Beach in Sousse

Beach in Sousse

Tunisia has 2 climatic zones: subtropical Mediterranean in the north and along the coast, and tropical desert in the south and inland.

Annual precipitation ranges from 100 mm in the south to 1500 mm in mountainous areas; in some desert areas, it does not rain for many years in a row. Summer heat on the coast is not very noticeable, as it is softened by the sea breeze.

The best time to visit the country is September-November and March-June. You can swim until the beginning of November.

Tunisia cities and regions

Administratively, Tunisia is divided into 24 vilayets (Arabic: ولاية), or governorates (fr. Gouvernorat), governed by governors, divided in turn into 262 districts – mutamadiyats, which are also divided into shaikhats. The main cities of interest to tourists are listed below.

The capital of Tunisia bears the same name as the country. At the same time, the city of Tunis is also the capital of the province of Tunis. It is located on the Mediterranean coast of the Gulf of Tunis, behind the Tunisian Lake. The population of the city of Tunisia is 1.2 million (2008 data). In Greater Tunisia, which includes the suburbs (Carthage, La Marsa, Sidi Bou Said), there are almost 4 million inhabitants.

Tunis city

Administrative divisions of Tunisia

Administrative divisions of Tunisia

Tunisia is a modern metropolis, a city that is called “Arab Paris”. The public transport system is well developed here, modern highways are laid, there are hotels, restaurants, stadiums, museums. The University of Tunisia is no less famous than the University of Oxford. The central street of Tunisia is Habib Bourguiba Avenue, at the western end of which is the old city – the medina of Tunisia, which is a must-see for tourists who want to plunge into the authentic atmosphere of the East.

Hammamet

The resort town of Hammamet is the most popular among domestic tourists. Those who wish to improve their health by combining procedures with beach and cultural relaxation go here. The name of the city comes from the Arabic word “hammam” – a bath, and the ancient Romans improved their health in local baths – thermal baths. The resort has been very popular throughout history. So, at one time, Flaubert and Maupassant came here, during the Second World War, first the soldiers of Rommel’s army, and then the allies, were treated here.

Today Hammamet is a world famous thalasso resort, which was visited by many domestic celebrities: Anastasia Vertinskaya, Andrey Voznesensky, Lyudmila Gurchenko, Evgeny Primakov, etc. The Hammamet area is the “greenest” part of the country, the resort is surrounded by orange and eucalyptus groves, olive trees, date palms, vineyards.

Monastir

Monastir is one of the most popular Tunisian resorts among Russian tourists. It forms a single recreation area with the resorts of Sfax and Mahdia. The history of Monastir began with the ancient Roman settlement of Rus Penna. Today, vacationers at this resort can combine beach and wellness holidays with a variety of local attractions.

Mahdia

Mahdia is located 45 km from Monastir Airport. This resort is famous for its uncrowded beaches with magnificent white sand, and is best suited for lovers of a relaxing beach holiday for two or a family. Also in Mahdia there is one of the best thalassotherapy centers on the coast and a couple of good diving centers. In addition, Mahdia is the center of silk weaving, every Friday a special silk bazaar is held in the city.

Sousse

Medina, Sousse

Medina, Sousse

Sousse is the Tunisian capital of classic beach vacations with complete infrastructure. It is a fashionable resort town with a string of famous chain hotels along the coast, with gorgeous beaches, thalassotherapy facilities, and a full range of entertainment for adults and children. In 2003, Russian tourists named Sousse “The Best Resort in the Mediterranean Sea” in the annual All-Russian Travel Star Award. Ru “.

Tabarka

Tabarca is a resort on the northern coast of Tunisia, which is surrounded by hills with oak and pine groves, its coastline, indented by cliffs, teems with wild beaches. The area is famous for its picturesque landscapes dominated by giant needle-shaped rocks, the so-called “needles”. In addition, Tabarka is one of the best diving spots in Tunisia. Every year in May, Tabarka hosts the traditional Spring Festival, and in early September – a string of vibrant water festivals. Also, since 1995, every year in June-July, famous jazzmen from all over the world come to Tabarka for the International Jazz Festival.

Bizerte

Bizerte is located 60 km from the airport of Tunisia, this typical port city is popular with tourists: there are several ancient fortresses and beautiful beaches. Lake Eshkel is located 30 km south-west of Bizerta – a very beautiful place, especially popular among fans of ecological tourism.

Kairouan

The historic city of Kairouan is located 60 kilometers from Sousse. It was founded in 670 by the Arab general Okba ibn Nafi on one of the important African trade routes. Today Kairouan is the fourth most revered city in the Muslim hierarchy (after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem). The sevenfold pilgrimage here is equivalent to the Hajj to Mecca. The main attraction of Kairouan is the Great (Friday) Sidi Okba Mosque (named after the founder of the city). In addition, Kairouan is the center for the production of the famous knotted carpets, which can be bought here in numerous shops.

Douz

Douz is one of the most picturesque cities in Tunisia. This oasis city is called the “gate of the desert”, because it is from here that desert safaris start. A lot is connected with the desert in the city: there is a monument to a camel, the Museum of the Sahara works. The city is surrounded by about 100 thousand date palms, and every Thursday an authentic date bazaar is held in Duse. Every year in November and December, for over 30 years, the Sahara Festival has been held in Douz, during which parades, competitions, camel races, demonstrations of Bedouin crafts, and various shows are held in the city.

Djerba Island

Djerba Island

Djerba Island

Djerba Island with an area of ​​500 sq. kilometers is another popular tourist destination in Tunisia. The main city of the island is Houmt Souk (“big bazaar”), which is home to 25 thousand people. The island of Djerba, called “Mediterranean Tahiti”, is a year-round resort: the average annual temperature is +20 C, the water near the coast is clear and warm, the city is surrounded by date palms. On Djerba, as elsewhere in Tunisia, antiquity coexists with modernity – ancient cultural monuments coexist peacefully with fashionable hotels and the newest golf courses.

What to see for tourists in Tunisia

Tunis city

The Bardo Museum, or Alown National Museum, is named after the Dar Hussein (Bardo) palace in which it is located. This is the largest museum in the Maghreb countries. It contains a huge collection of interesting exhibits, divided into sections: prehistoric, Punic, Roman, Christian, Muslim. Items from the underwater excavations in Mahdia are displayed separately. The pride of the museum is the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics. The architectural complex of the museum includes palaces built during the Hafsid era and completed under the Muradids. The collection of the museum is constantly replenished thanks to archaeological excavations.

Tunisia

Tunisia

The Dar bin Abdullah Museum of Art and Folk Traditions is housed in a palace built in 1796, decorated with paintings on wood, colored ceramic and marble tiles. This museum has an interesting exhibition of wax figures that recreates the traditional life of a wealthy Tunisian family of the 18th century. One can see national men’s attire, wedding attire, children’s clothing and ritual attire for circumcision.

The Great Mosque or Olive Mosque is the religious symbol of Tunisia, the largest and oldest mosque in its capital. It was built in 732. According to legend, the mosque was built on the site where a wonderful olive tree grew. Earlier this site was the site of the Roman forum. The mosque was founded by Hassan ibn Numan, the conqueror of Carthage when he was Byzantine.

For rituals in the Zituna Mosque, only rainwater is used, which is collected in special tanks. The architectural merit of the mosque is a very beautiful dome, Venetian glass chandeliers in the prayer hall, magnificent antique columns with carved capitals.

The mosque is open for non-Muslims to visit, but you can go no further than the courtyard – the entrance to the prayer hall and the interior is prohibited. It is recommended to be strict in dress, so as not to offend the feelings of believers.

The Hamud Pasha Mosque is an interesting structure, decorated with an octahedral minaret, built in the 17th century during the Turkish rule. Its architecture is a vivid example of the so-called Muslim Baroque, which replaced the cumbersome heaviness of the buildings of the Aghlabid era, with some influence of Italian architecture. The Muradids, the ancestors of the founders of the mosque, are buried here.

The Catholic Cathedral of St. Vincent was erected in Tunisia in 1883, it is located near the entrance to the medina. The cathedral is named after Saint Vincent de Paul (1581–1660), a priest who was sold into slavery by the Berbers in Tunisia and who returned a few years later to devote the rest of his life to serving the Catholic Church. The architecture of the cathedral mixed Gothic, Byzantine and Moorish styles.

The only Orthodox church in Tunisia is the Russian Church of the Resurrection of Christ, located at the beginning of Mohammed V Avenue, among the buildings of the Tunisian government offices. The blue domes of the church create an amazing contrast with the surrounding palm crowns. The church was built in the early 1920s when ships of the Wrangel fleet arrived in Tunisia. Today a Russian priest, Father Dmitry, is conducting services in the church. To get inside, ring the bell at the gate.

The Salammbô Oceanographic Museum is Tunisia’s main maritime museum. It was opened in 1924, and is located in the premises of the “small fort” Sidi al-Hani on the shore of the strait. The museum has united under its roof a rich collection of exhibits of marine themes. The exposition is located in 11 rooms, the museum has stunning aquariums made by glazing the former loopholes of the fort. Visitors can learn a lot: about coastal flora and fauna, about the nature of the nearby islands and protected marine areas of Tunisia, about seabirds of the Mediterranean and fishing methods.

Carthage

The ancient city of Carthage is located on the territory of the modern city of Tunis. The ruins of Carthage, being a landmark in themselves, consist of many surviving objects from that era.

Carthage

Carthage

Amphitheater in Carthage – Roman amphitheater of the 1st century AD, reconstructed by Julius, and once the largest amphitheater on the African continent (it could seat 50 thousand spectators). Only the ruins of this majestic architectural monument have survived to this day. Over the centuries, stones from the buildings of the amphitheater have been borrowed for the construction of new structures. Under the arena, underground galleries were found in which wild animals were kept. Today, the amphitheater hosts entertainment events, including concerts by African and European performers.

The Baths of Anthony in Carthage are the ruins of the largest Roman baths outside the Roman Empire. These baths were built after the end of the Punic Wars, on the site of the ruins of an ancient city. They were named after Emperor Anthony Pius. Once this large architectural ensemble with tall columns was buried in the greenery of the gardens. It included huge swimming pools, gymnastics rooms and lounges. The baths were destroyed by barbarians in 439, and only the remains of the foundations have survived to this day.

The National Museum of Carthage is dedicated to various stages in the history of the ancient city – Punic, Roman, Christian. The oldest museum in Tunisia, founded in 1875, occupies the building of a former monastery, once built on the very spot where the first stone of the ancient city was laid in the 1st century BC. The exposition of the museum includes stone sarcophagi of the Roman and Punic periods, Roman mosaic panels, sculptures, an extensive collection of ceramics, funeral vases and stone tombstones. In the halls of the museum there are models that reproduce in detail the appearance of the city during its prosperity.

Sousse

Medina, Sousse

Medina, Sousse

The Archaeological Museum of Sousse is housed in a modern building, built according to the plan of an ancient Roman house. The patio has access to galleries decorated with mosaics. The museum contains works from the 1st-6th centuries on the themes of Greco-Roman and Christian mythologies, as well as objects that introduce visitors to everyday life and important events of those times.

The Sousse Grand Mosque is located in the Medina. It was built during the reign of Emir Abul Abbaz Mohammed in 851. The courtyard with galleries is newer buildings, they appeared in 1675. Prayer rooms (IX century), decorated with Roman columns around the perimeter, are of architectural interest. In 1964–65, the mosque underwent a large-scale restoration.

The Catacombs of the Good Shepherd are located not far from the city center and are former quarries that the ancient Christians used as a cemetery. The underground passages are over 5 km long and consist of 250 galleries. They contain more than 15 thousand Christian burials of the 2nd-4th centuries. A small area is open for visiting, some of the graves are glazed. A little visited place by tourists.

Ribat in Sousse is a monastery-fortress, which simultaneously serves to protect the coast from the sea. This is one of the oldest fortresses in Tunisia, it was finally completed in 821 during the reign of the Aghlabids. Along the perimeter of the courtyard, paved with light stone, there are cell galleries. The fortress walls have been very well preserved, the height of which is 12-15 meters, and the thickness is about 4 meters. From the watch tower – the Nador tower – a stunning panorama of Sousse and the surrounding area opens up.

The Dar Essid Museum is located in the luxurious old house of the noble city dweller Essid of the early 10th century. The house has 11 rooms, including the bedrooms of two rich man’s wives, and a tall observatory tower, from which they once watched the stars. The interiors decorated with mosaics, ceramics and marble have been completely restored in the museum, utensils and clothes of past centuries have been collected. Notable exhibits include a 700-year-old marriage contract, antique cashmere curtains and a luxurious ancient Roman urinal. There are explanations in Russian. Tourists can touch all the exhibits, sit on the ancient bench, and then climb the spiral staircase to the 65-meter tower and take in the panorama of the surrounding area. There is a small cafe at the top of the tower.

Djerba Island

Djerba Island

Djerba Island

The El Grib synagogue in Riyadh is a cultural monument, an important Jewish shrine, an object of pilgrimage for Jews in the Middle East and North Africa. Pilgrims arrive here on the 33rd day after Easter. This temple is one of the oldest in the region, it is more than two thousand years old. A massive wooden door leads into a rectangular hall lined with blue tiles, which is an ancient sanctuary. One of the most important Jewish artifacts is kept there – the Torah scroll. In addition, the relics of one of the authors of the Talmud, Shimon Bar Yaskhai, rest within the walls of the synagogue. According to legend, the El-Grib synagogue was erected on the site of a paradise stone that fell to the ground. It is believed that as soon as the last Jew leaves Djerba, the keys to the synagogue will return to paradise. It seems that the wait for this event will not be long: the Jewish commune on the island is very, very small.

Fortress Borj el-Kebir on the island of Djerba, built on the site of an ancient Roman fortification. The ruins of a Roman fortress were used to build a new fortress in 1289, which was also destroyed. In the middle of the 15th century, another fortress was erected on an ancient foundation, which was reinforced by the corsair Dragut 100 years later. It was her that the Spaniards besieged in vain for 3 months in 1560. From the skulls of the dead Spaniards, a pyramid was built – the Tower of Skulls within the fortress walls. The Tower of Skulls was destroyed in 1848, and a memorial sign was erected in its place. Inside the fortress, you can see a small gallery of ceramics.

In addition, there is a fairly large crocodile farm on the island, where these dangerous reptiles are bred on an industrial scale. Every day at 4:00 pm, crocodile feeding begins, in which everyone can participate.

Mahdia

Amphitheater of Mark Antony Gordian, El Jem

Amphitheater of Mark Antony Gordian, El Jem

The amphitheater in El Jem is located 42 kilometers from Mahdia and is a significant historical monument. It was built in the 3rd century and could simultaneously accommodate up to 30 thousand spectators. Only three floors of arcades have survived to this day, stairs and benches have been reconstructed. There are rooms and underground passages under the arena. Today, the amphitheater hosts festivals, concerts of symphonic and jazz music.

The Great Mosque in Mahdia was built in 921 during the Fatimid era. According to legend, only Mahdi himself and his entourage could pass through its grandiose gates. Only a few fragments of the structure have survived to this day. In 1965, the mosque was restored according to old plans

The Skifa-el-Kala gate is a unique structure that combines the functions of a portal and a fortification. Inside the gate is a 21-meter winding corridor leading to Cairo Square. The gate was built in the 16th century, after the departure of the Spaniards, and was the only entrance to the Fatimid palace. A staircase leads to the top of the gate, where there are terraces with a magnificent view of the city and the port.

Monastir

Ribat Hartem is the main historical attraction of Monastir. It is a powerful fortress of warrior monks with a sea lighthouse, a defensive structure of the 8th century. From the platform at the top of the watchtower in the northern part of Ribat, an impressive panorama of the city opens. In Ribat, there is a female and a male part, and the building of the former mosque has also survived, which today houses the Museum of Islam, opened in 1958. The exposition presents ancient manuscripts, fabrics (IV and VI centuries), glass and clay products of the Abbasid and Fatimid eras, a collection of objects from the first centuries of Islam. The ancient astrolabe made in Cordoba in 927 is also interesting.

Monastir

Monastir

The mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba is the second most important attraction in Monastir. A huge and richly decorated mausoleum with a golden dome and two high minarets was built for the first president of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, a native of Monastir and a politician highly respected by Tunisians (it was he who legally banned polygamy in the country and allowed divorce). The mausoleum was erected in 1963, on a part of the Ribat cemetery specially allocated for it. The mausoleum is decorated with gold, marble, artistic tiles, its walls are covered with stone carvings and decorated with corals. The mausoleum complex includes a building with a green dome, in which the parents of the first president and his first wife are buried.

The Habib Bugriba Mosque, named after the first President of Tunisia, was built in 1963 after the Hammuda Pasha Mosque in Tunis. Its prayer hall is adorned with splendid pink marble columns dominated by golden mosaics and delicate Kairouan carvings. The mosque can simultaneously accommodate over a thousand people. Recently, the mosque can be visited by everyone, it is necessary to observe modesty in clothes.

Hammamet

House of Georg Sebastian is an unusual villa built in 1920 in Hammamet by the wealthy Romanian architect Georg Sebastian. The villa, nestled in a cypress grove, has a pool surrounded by columns, bedrooms with antique mirrors and Roman baths. Many celebrities visited the villa: André Gide, Guy de Maupassant, Flaubert, Georges Bernanos, Churchill, King George VI. The villa has an amphitheater in the garden where the International Arts Festival is held annually.

The archaeological site of Sidi Jedidi is located in the vicinity of Hammamet, on the site of an ancient Roman settlement. Visitors can see the ruins of ancient streets and unique mosaics.

Kairouan

Mosque in Kairouan

Mosque in Kairouan

The Grand Friday Mosque of Sidi Okba in Kairouan is the oldest and main mosque in the sacred for Muslims Tunisian city of Kairouan, the first monument of medieval Muslim architecture in the Maghreb in terms of time of appearance and significance, and, at the same time, the largest mosque in the country. The mosque, named after the founder of the city of Okba ibn Nafi, originally also served as a fortress in which the inhabitants of the city hid from the attacks of the Byzantines and Berbers. The first stone in its foundation was laid in 670. The current building with a 35-meter minaret dominating the city is a monument of the Aghlabid era. Materials for the construction of the mosque were brought from El-Jem destroyed by the Arabs, including 414 antique columns. In 1057, the mosque was badly damaged by the raid of nomads, Kairouan was destroyed. From the top of the minaret, you can observe the surroundings within a radius of 10 km. The height of the building is over 100 m. This mosque is one of the few Islamic shrines to which non-Muslims are allowed access.

What to do for a tourist in Tunisia

Tunisia provides guests with great opportunities for active recreation and health improvement.

Thalassotherapy

Thalassotherapy in Tunisian resorts is one of the reasons that attract tourists to this country in winter. Plus, this trendy wellness holiday in Tunisia is relatively cheap.

Hammamet

Hammamet

Thalassotherapy is a complex of wellness treatments based on the use of sea water and sea mud: warm and cold seaweed wraps, massage with water jets, gymnastics in a pool with heated sea water, pressotherapy, massage on a couch and trips to the hammam.
There is a great variety of thalassotherapy programs in Tunisia: from general health and rehabilitation programs to special ones (cosmetology, pre- and postnatal programs, treatment of diseases of the musculoskeletal system, anti-stress, programs for those who want to quit smoking, etc.).

Before starting treatment, the patient is provided with a doctor’s consultation ($ 18), and he, depending on the general condition, prescribes procedures. A standard thalassotherapy course lasts about a week and includes 3-4 treatments per day. The cost of a weekly course is from $ 300, depending on the class of the hotel.

Thalassotherapy centers in Tunisia are concentrated mainly in Hammamet, Sousse and on the island of Djerba. Thalasso centers in Hammamet are famous for using the freshest sea mud that comes into the baths through pipes directly from the bottom of the sea – from a depth of 8-10 meters.

Major thalassotherapy centers in Hammamet:

  • Bio Azur (at the hotel complex Azur: Royal Azur 5 * – Sol Azur 4 * – Bel Azur 3 *);
  • Thalassa Palace Nahrawess Center (at the Nahrawess Thalassa 4 * hotel) – the largest thalassotherapy center in the Mediterranean;
  • Vital Center Thalgo (at the Karthago Hammamet 5 * hotel);
  • Hasdrubal Thalassa 5 * De Luxe;
  • Rio Park El Kebir 4 *;
  • Aziza 4 *;
  • Iberostar Solaria 5 *, Iberostar Belisaire 4 *;
  • Vincci Lella Baya 4 *.

The Talosso Centers in Sousse pride themselves on the Mandara Wellness Course, which includes flower baths and massage with aromatic oils.

The main thalassotherapy centers in Sousse:

  • Hasdrubal Thalassa & SPA 4 * (Port El Kantaoui);
  • Abou Nawas Bou Jaafar Center (at the Abou Nawas Bou Jaafar 4 * hotel);
  • El Mouradi Palace 5 *;
  • Karthago El Ksar 4 *.

Thalassotherapy centers in Monastir:

  • Image Health Center (at Skanes Beach LTI 4 * hotel);
  • center at the Royal Miramar Talassa 5 * hotel.

The main thalassotherapy centers in Mahdia:

  • Mahdia Palace Thalasso 5 *;
  • Thalassa Mahdia 4 *;
  • Vincci Nour Palace 5 *.

The main thalassotherapy centers in Djerba:

  • Hasdrubal Thalassa 5 *;
  • Yadis Thalassa 4 *;
  • Athenee Thalassa 5 *;
  • Ulisee Palace 5 *;
  • Vital Center Thalgo 4 *.

Golf

Sahara

Sahara

For golf enthusiasts, Tunisia offers well-equipped golf courses for players of all levels: professionals will find courses to match their level, and beginners can learn the basics of the game at golf schools. All golf clubs are located in resort areas. More recently, a new golf course has appeared in the Sahara Desert. All golf courses are usually surrounded by beautiful landscapes, and excellent service is provided to the players.

The most famous golf clubs in Tunisia:

  • Golf de Carthage (Tunisia)
  • Golf Yasmine Hammamet (Hammamet)
  • Golf Citrus Hammamet (Hammamet)
  • El Kantaoui Golf Course (Cuss)
  • Flamingo Golf Course (Monastir)

Diving

Tunisia is the fourth largest country in the world in terms of diving opportunities, and you can dive here all year round. The coastal waters of Tunisia are among the most interesting places for divers in the Mediterranean. The 1250 km long coastline in the northern part is cut by picturesque bays with small sandy beaches. The underwater landscapes abound with colored reefs, canyons, rocks and grottoes, and there are also sunken ships from the Second World War. Among the inhabitants of the underwater kingdom are sea bass, grouper, sea carp and bream (pair), varieties of red mullet, shrimp, molluscs (squid and octopus), and even a hammerhead shark.

Diving sites in Tunisia are located along the entire coast, making them accessible from any resort. The Tunisian Federation of Underwater Activities (FAST) has 18 ready-to-go dive centers with professional instructors and PADI and CMAS training courses.

Several useful dive center addresses:

  • Hammamet: Club Nabil Jegham. Telephone: 00216 72 227 211. Fax: 00216 72 226 304. Email: nabil.jegham@planet.tn.
  • Sousse: Scruba Diving center. Phone: 00216 98 319 741. Email: charrad.jalel@planet.tn.
  • Djerba: Merry land Djerba. Phone: 00216 75 657 070/750 124. Email: afriqua@caramail.com.
  • Mahdia: Cap Afrique mahdia. Address: BP 42-Hiboun. Phone: 00216 73 695 530. Fax: 00216 73 694 476. Email: afriqua@caramail.com.

Every September, Tunisia hosts a two-day Coral Festival – a grand event for swimming and diving enthusiasts, where guests will find video lectures, seminars, diving courses and exhibitions of photographs of the sea depths. On the same days, the festival “Neptune Trident” is held – a competition for the best spear for spear hunting. Both festivals traditionally gather a lot of participants and spectators.

Fishing and yachting

Tunisia is also a great place for fishing lovers. Hobby anglers can catch sardines, sardinella, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, bonito, grouper, sea bream, red mullet.

Yachting in Tunisia is gaining more and more importance from year to year. Every summer numerous foreign yachts and sailboats moor off the coast of Tunisia, where their owners are provided with specially equipped accommodation in the port. Among the most significant is the port of Yasmine-Hammamet, which has 718 port infrastructure facilities of various capacities, including 100 marinas for guests. The second most important is the coastal cape of the Monastir resort, which houses 386 port infrastructure facilities, including 200 marinas for guests.

Getting around the country

You can get to Tunisia by air and sea. Airlines connect Tunisia with African and European countries, there are also domestic airlines. There are international airports in three cities: in Tunis, in Monastir and on the island of Djerba.

The waterway to Tunisia can be made on the ferries of the companies CTN (Tunisian Navigation Company) and SNCM (Mediterranean National Company of Corsica), which carry out passenger traffic between the port of La Gulette and Marseille, Genoa, Naples, Trapani. There are also cargo flights from the ports of Khalq el Oued, Sfax, Bizerta, Sehira, Sousse.

The public transport system in Tunisia is highly developed and quite convenient.

Railway connection

All major cities are linked by railway lines. The total length of the country’s railway track is about 2000 km. Rail transport is operated by SNCFT

(Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Tunisiens). The train is one of the most convenient modes of transport in Tunisia. All trains are high-speed, with carriages of 3 classes: II – hard, I – improved (with air conditioning and shutters) and a car of increased comfort (air conditioning, blinds, increased distance between seats). Tickets are sold at stations, the price depends on the distance of the trip, but the cost of a one-way trip is unlikely to exceed 5 TND.

Light metro (Le métro léger de Tunis) is another type of railway transport in Tunisia. It traces its history back to the first railway lines that appeared in Tunisia in 1872. The light rail network is operated by the transport company Transtu.

The light rail schedule can be found at the counter of each hotel. So, in the city of Tunisia there are 7 lines of such a metro, on it you can get from the city of Tunisia to Carthage, it connects the cities of Sousse, Monastir and Mahdia. The fare is around 1 TND, the interval is about 30 minutes.

Tunisia’s light rail system also includes a tram line (TGM) operated by the same Transtu company. The carriages run along the route: Tunisia – La Goulette – La Marsa. The fare is 1–2 TND.

Buses

Bus service is also developed in Tunisia. Bus lines connect all areas of the city of Tunisia, the surrounding area and outlying cities. One of the carriers is the National Intercity Transportation Company (SNTRI). All buses leave from Bab Alijua (to the center and south of the country) and Bab Saadoun (to the north and west) stations. The buses are quite comfortable and air conditioned. Tickets are sold at the conductor, fare is zonal.

Taxi

Taxi is a very convenient form of transport for tourists in Tunisia. Payment is made according to the meter (make sure the driver turns on the meter), but not in dinars, but in millimeters (1 dinar = 1000 millimeters). The cost of landing is 400 millimeters, 1 km of the way will cost about 1 dinar. Taxis do not transport more than 4 people, this even applies to children. The night rate is valid from 21:00 to 5:00, it is 50% more expensive than the day rate. Remember that at night the meter is immediately switched on to the night rate (it is set this way), so the driver’s assurances that “this is the day’s price, to which you need to add another half” are unfounded. If you want to thank the taxi driver for fast delivery or pleasant company, round up the bill to dinars or 500 millimeters. You can call a car at the hotel reception or stop a car on the street.

Regular yellow taxis and 8-seater white minibuses with a yellow or blue stripe on board (called “Luage”) move around the city. The fare in a fixed-route taxi is 1-2 TND. Intercity routes are made by route taxis with a red stripe. They are sent as they are filled, the price of the trip is 4–6 TND.

Car rent

Car rental is also very common in Tunisia. In order to rent a car, the driver must be at least 21 years old, he must have an international driving license and passport. The cheapest car rental will cost 80 TND per day.

You can rent a car at the hotel, at the airport or at the numerous rental offices (Location des voitures) in the resort areas.

Tunisia has European traffic rules, which, however, are completely ignored by local drivers. Therefore, you should be very careful on the roads. The penalty for drunk driving is very large, the Tunisian police are incorruptible. To travel across the Sahara, a special permit from local authorities is required (in some areas, entry is possible only on four-wheel drive jeeps).

Communication with Tunisians

Tijma

Tijma

97% of the country’s population is made up of Arabs who profess Islam and speak Arabic. The Arabic language in Tunisia is represented by both literary Arabic, which is the state language, and Tunisian Arabic, a collection of local dialects, the spoken language in which Tunisians communicate in everyday life.

In addition to the Arabs, an insignificant part (1%) of the Berbers of the Nefusa tribe (Djerba, Matmata, Tatauin, Gafsa districts) live in Tunisia, who speak their own dialect – shilha. About 1.5% of the country’s population are Circassians, descendants of migrants from the Caucasus. There is also a Jewish community on the island of Djerba.

Most Tunisians are fluent in French, which was established in the country during the French domination, and for a long time was practically the second official language. English is spoken by a small proportion of the population, mainly in the tourist areas of the country.

The culture of Tunisia

The culture of Tunisia is the result of a historical mixture of many different cultures: Punic, Roman, Jewish, Christian, Arab, Muslim, Turkish and French. Tunisia at all times found itself at the crossroads of the spread of various world religions and the development of civilizations.

A striking example of this is the Tunisian folk music, which has experienced the influence of three cultures: Eastern – from Mecca and Medina, Spanish – from Andalusia, Turkish – from the Ottoman Empire.

In the Jerbahud quarter

In the Jerbahud quarter

As for painting, due to the ban on depicting a person in Islam, the portrait genre did not develop for a long time in Tunisia, and local artists improved in the art of calligraphy, eventually achieving tremendous success. Thus, a true Tunisian master of calligraphy can create a written pattern – any saying, the letters of which make up the figure of a jumping tiger or an elegant jug. However, with the arrival of the French, painting began to develop in the country, as a result of which the works of the masters of the so-called Tunisian school appeared, who turned to both the European artistic heritage and the Arabic – miniatures, arabesques, Islamic architecture.

Cinematography in Tunisia is hardly the most developed area of ​​culture, because it traces its history from the moment the camera was invented. Back in 1896, the Lumière brothers were filming on the streets of Tunisia, and in 1919 the first full-length film shot on the African continent, Les Cinq gentlemen maudits, was shown. In the XX century, the cinema in Tunisia was actively developing, striving to win the glory of Arab Hollywood. The result surpassed all the wildest expectations: today in the Monastir film studios the most famous directors of world renown are filming sensational blockbusters: Roman Polanski – “Pirates”, Franco Zeffirelli – “Jesus of Nazareth”, George Lucas – scenes from “Star Wars”, Anthony Minghella – ” English patient “, etc.

Tunisia is famous for its excellent handicrafts. So, traditionally, former Bedouins are engaged in weaving baskets from palm leaves, and in Hergle and Moknin they weave straw baskets. The inhabitants of Kairouan, El-Djemy, Udref weave magnificent carpets, and in Ksar-Hellal, Bu-Himar, wool weaving is widespread. In Nabul, Moknin and on. Famous potters live in Djerba, and brass craftsmen live in Sousse.

Tunisian Cuisine

Historically, Tunisian cuisine is more closely related to European cuisine than any other Arabic cuisine. The only spicy seasoning is harissa (made from crushed red pepper with the addition of olive oil, garlic and spices) – served in a separate bowl. The taste of the rest of the dishes, most of them very satisfying, will not be an unpleasant revelation for foreign guests. However, Tunisians are adherents of all sorts of condiments, herbs and spices, which they use with full knowledge of the matter, adding them to many dishes.

Bread in the Tunisian meal is present in large quantities, it is broken by hand. There are two types of bread: “lavash” and “loaf”.

Tunisian Cuisine

Tunisian Cuisine

So, as cold snacks, the guest will be offered the same harissa, canned tuna, olives, salads “omak khuriya” (boiled carrots and pumpkin with spices), “mesuya” (from grilled and finely chopped peppers, tomatoes and garlic), ” slata tunsia ”(classic“ summer ”salad – fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers). Salted lemons are also considered an authentic snack – a very unusual taste for a European.

Next come hot snacks: “brik” – a cheburek stuffed with potatoes, tuna, eggs and parsley, “tagin” – a tall omelette with chicken, potatoes, herbs, cheese and onions, “kefta” – meatballs in sauce. Hot appetizers include vegetable puree soups “tshish” and “hsu”, and a variety of grilled seafood (squid, cuttlefish, octopus).

The next dish of the Tunisian lunch is the traditional thick soup “shorba”, prepared on the basis of fish or lamb, less often vegetables, with the addition of tomato paste and flour. Tourists should also definitely try the pan-Arab dish “couscous”, there are a lot of ways to prepare it in Tunisia: each village is proud of its own and, of course, the only correct recipe. Couscous is cooked in a special dish, in the lower part of which vegetables, meat, fish or seafood are stewed in a sauce, and in the upper part, on a wire rack, cereals are steamed. Serve couscous on a large dish, where first put the cooked cereal, and pour the contents of the bottom of the pan on top. Garnish with grilled hot peppers and egg halves. Couscous is also sweet (“mesfuf”) – with dates, nuts and sugar syrup.

As for meat, in Tunisia, mainly lamb and beef are eaten, although in some places you can also try camel meat. Almost always, meat is cooked on a skewer, skewers, or braziers. It is worth trying grilled lamb ribs or steaks, as well as meat baked in a pot.

Traditionally, seafood in Tunisia is preferable to meat and is more expensive. Tunisian cuisine is distinguished by a huge variety of tuna dishes, which is added here to almost everything – from salads to baked goods. Also try dorada, sea bass, swordfish, eel, shrimp, shellfish, octopus and sea cuttlefish. All seafood is absolutely fresh. In restaurants, the client chooses fish from the ice display case himself, and it is cooked at will: deep-fried or grilled, baked in foil or under coarse salt. Then the waiter cuts the fish and serves only fillets.

It is also possible to have an inexpensive snack in Tunisia: everywhere they sell “cascrut” (from the French casse-croûte – light breakfast), a kind of hot dog: half a baguette stuffed with harissa, salad, canned tuna, sausage circles, slices of fried chicken escalope, tomatoes and olives. The cost is only 2.5 dinars.

Desserts in Tunisian cuisine take pride of place – they are delicious and cooked with imagination. Main components: almonds, pistachios, pine and walnuts, honey, powdered sugar. The most popular desserts are baklava (baklava), mlyabes (small glazed sugar dough cakes), kaak el-uarka (something like a white dough donut), kaaber (sweet balls), makrud (cookies with nuts and dates). Desserts are sold in special pastry shops under the name “pâtisserie”.

It is customary in Tunisia to end every meal with a very sweet green tea, which is usually served with pine nuts or almonds. Coffee is also very popular in Tunisia, especially with cardamom. Moreover, in coffee houses you can find not only the local strong, Turkish-brewed “kahua arbi”, but also European types of coffee with milk or espresso.

As for alcohol, the inhabitants of Tunisia, a Muslim country, traditionally do not drink alcohol, but tourists are quite liberal about drinking it. Moreover, the country (in the north and in the suburbs of the capital) produces very decent wines – red, white and rosé, dry and semi-dry. It is worth paying attention to Muscat de Kelibia, red Magon (classic or seasoned), Gris de Tunisie.

Tunisia also has its own beer brand – Celtia. The country also produces the date liqueur “Tibarin” and fig vodka – “Boukha”. In hotels and in state stores of the General chain (liquor departments are closed on Fridays), you can buy both local and any imported spirits.

Tip: Many hot dishes in Tunisian restaurants (from hot snacks to main courses) are very large and satisfying. It is worth calculating your strength correctly and, perhaps, taking one dish for two, otherwise a delicious dessert will no longer fit.

Remember also that in all Tunisian catering places the first change of cold appetizers (harissa, mechuya salad, olives, tuna, vegetable salads) and side dishes (when ordering fish or meat – french fries, spaghetti, rice) are not counted in the bill…

Gratuities will not be included in your bill either. Therefore, if you liked the service and would like to thank the waiter, leave him 10% of the bill.

Shopping in Tunisia

As a rule, most tourists go to Tunisia for a beach holiday. Everything you need for relaxation can be bought in shops on the territory of the hotel, or outside, where the same goods will be much cheaper. In almost every resort town in Tunisia, there are state supermarkets Monoprix and General.

Shops in Tunisia are open on weekdays in winter from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 19:00, in summer – from 8:00 to 12:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00. During the Ramadan holiday, there is a special opening hours – from 9:00 to 13:00 and from 19:00 to 21:00, some private shops even longer.

In Tunisian stores, you can hardly buy fashionable items from the latest collections of famous designers, however, it is quite possible to please yourself with interesting authentic things that will remind you of Tunisia, or high-quality interior items that will decorate your home.

Shopping in Tunisia

A rare woman will refrain from buying beautiful hand-woven scarves and stoles made of Mahdian silk. Craftswomen of Hammamet can offer fashionistas dresses of a modern style from silk embroidered with gold threads. Men often buy national clothes in Tunisia: jubbs – loose overalls up to mid-calf and serueli – loose pants up to the knees.

Tunisia is renowned for its distinctive oriental jewelery in 750 ° gold. Most of the jewelry is with semi-precious stones, although there are also modern models in white gold with diamonds. Tourists will also be offered a large selection of massive Berber silver jewelry. In addition, wonderful jewelry with corals is sold in Tabarka, and in the city of Tunisia – with pearls and colored stones. The local jewelery “shab” is also interesting – a product with amber pieces, which, when in contact with the skin, emits a delicate aroma.

At Kairouan, the center for making Tunisian rugs, you can buy a quality rug that will last your family for a long time. There are many kinds of carpets: classic woolen carpets with traditional patterns “windows of heaven”, “henna”, “jasmine”, “religious”; striped Kelima mats; embroidered mergums, Berber rugs with long pile in natural colors. And, of course, the top of the art is silk knotted carpets that play in the light with incredible shades.
When buying a carpet, remember that it must have a state certificate of authenticity, which is attached with a seal to its wrong side.

It is impossible to be in Tunisia and not buy a hookah! Hookahs come in different sizes, the “correct” size – up to mid-thigh or slightly higher. If you will use the hookah only as a piece of furniture, it can be of lower height.

The best ceramics in Tunisia should be bought in the city of Nabele and on the island of Djerba. The local pottery is of very high quality and is painted in life-affirming colors – blue, green, light blue and orange. To decorate the interior, it is worth paying attention to local glass: dishes, vases, lamps, candlesticks, etc. The so-called cracked glass in combination with a copper base is especially appreciated. Speaking of copper: Tunisian products made from it are very beautiful. Depending on the alloy used, copper products come in red or silver. You can buy dishes, vases, candlesticks, Turks and teapots.

Other traditional souvenirs from Tunisia are the “sand rose” (a crystalline petrified formation that resembles a flower), woven products made from straw and plant fibers (mats, lampshades, baskets, furniture) and woolen red hats – sheshi, a local variation of the Turkish fez.

The most “delicious” souvenirs from Tunisia, first of all, are dates, the main “gold reserve” of the country. Dates of the deglet-ennur variety (“dates of light”) from the Jerid region on the outskirts of the Sahara are enjoyed throughout Europe. Tourists also buy oriental sweets, which are sold everywhere and are stored for a long time.

Be sure to buy home a bottle of olive oil, very high quality and delicious. The olive groves with sixty million trees are the pride of Tunisia.

Communications in Tunisia

You can make a call in Tunisia from the telephone booth, which are found everywhere. They are called “taxiphon”, international call points are designated by the sign “Taxiphon Internationale” (8: 00-22: 00). Payphones operate on 1 TND coins for international calls, and 0.5 TND and 100 millimeters for domestic calls. Money can be exchanged right there at the booth. The paid amount is displayed on the payphone screen and automatically decreases as you talk. A call to Russia from a payphone will cost about 1 TND per minute, a call from any hotel will cost several times more.

Tunisia’s international code is 216. To call Tunisia from Russia, dial 8 – dial tone -10-216 (Tunisian code) – city code – subscriber’s number. For long distance calls in Tunisia, 0 is added to the city codes in front.

City codes:

  • Tunisia, Megrin, Ez-Zahra – 1;
  • Bizerta, Zagvan, Zariba, Kelibia, Nabul, Hammamet, Khabeul, El-Fahs – 2;
  • Mahdia, Sousse, Monastir, El-Jem – 3;
  • Sfax area – 4;
  • Gabes, Djerba, Kebili, Medenin, Tatavin, El-Hamma – 5;
  • Gafsa, Tauzar, Nefta, Sidi-Bou-Said – 6;
  • Kairouan, Kasserine, Feriana – 7;
  • Jenduba, Tabarka, Kef – 8.

Mobile communication covers almost the entire territory of the country and provides reliable communication even with remote areas. The communication standard is GSM 900. The main mobile operators in Tunisia are Tunisiana and Tunisie Telecom. A local SIM card is quite expensive ($ 20-25), although the actual tariffs are quite affordable (from 12 rubles per minute of conversation with Russia), so if you do not intend to make a large number of calls to your homeland, it is better to use the roaming of domestic mobile operators.

There are Internet cafes in many cities of the country; hotels often offer paid or free WI-FI.

Useful phone numbers

  • Fire Department 198
  • Police 197
  • Ambulance 190
  • Night ambulance 717/171

Safety

Tunisia is a fairly safe country for tourists, with a fairly low crime rate. However, as in any other country in the world, it is worth taking basic precautions.

So, you need to beware of pickpockets in markets and in crowded places. It is better to leave large sums of money and documents in the hotel safe.

Women should not dress revealingly in the capital and other cities to avoid becoming a victim of sexual harassment. Open T-shirts and shorts can offend the local population, they are allowed only within the resort areas. Women are also not advised to travel alone.

The need to travel to areas bordering Libya and Algeria, as well as to the desert regions of the south of the country, should be weighed.

Tourists traveling in a rented car should take into account the fact that local drivers generally ignore the traffic rules, road signs and often drive into the oncoming lane.

You should not take pictures of military objects and official institutions, as well as local residents, if they do not want it themselves.

The tap water is drinkable, which Tunisians are very proud of, but tourists are still encouraged to consume bottled water from the store.

During Ramadan, when devout Muslim Tunisians do not eat or smoke from dawn to dusk, tourists are also advised to refrain from smoking, drinking and eating in the streets. In hotels, smoking and drinking is not prohibited at all times. You should not offer unfamiliar Tunisians to smoke, drink wine or beer – this is tactless. It is considered impolite to gaze intently at women in a veil, or to look at the face of a person who is eating. You can not eat on the go or while standing, drink water after a fatty meal.

Jasmine Hammamet

Jasmine Hammamet

Remember that the transition to summer time in Tunisia does not take place every year – it is worth checking the time difference before traveling.

Be prepared for the fact that many Tunisian hotels allow unhindered access to the local population, which is not always pleasant.

No special vaccinations are required to enter the country, but doctors recommend getting vaccinated against malaria and yellow fever. For tourists, medical care is paid, the cost of services is relatively low, and the quality is acceptable. The resorts often operate modern medical clinics, almost every hotel has a first aid post, and in difficult cases, a qualified doctor is immediately called.

In addition, a pharmacy (Pharmacie) can be found in every city. Pharmacies are usually open from 8:00 to 20:00, some at night. A pharmacy in Tunisia is more than a place that simply sells medicines. Tunisian pharmacists are specialists with good medical education, they are always ready to give a little consultation, to give an injection, to measure blood pressure or even to provide first aid.

Where to stay in Tunisia for tourists

It is the hotel base in Tunisia that is quite diverse and will satisfy the requirements of both unpretentious and very sophisticated tourists.

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