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January 5th 2011
Published: January 6th 2011
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Dear All

Greetings from London! I have made it back here safely after what has been an excellent and amazing trip, in a truly beautiful and hospitable country. Tunisia is just such a great destination to visit, and I can't recommend it enough - its combination of beautiful places, relatively easy transport and friendly and welcoming people just make it great for a first-time traveller venturing outside the West, and if it's not been made obvious so far, it was just great for me too!

Writing this one safely from the confines of my front room in Hammersmith, listening to my own music from my own CD player, having had a stinkingly hot bath this morning as well as bacon and eggs (my favourite!) for breakfast. My washing machine is going at full blast, with four loads to do in total, and am enjoying the luxuries of Tesco Finest food. In sum, just wallowing in the comforts of home, although I really am just so tired I could sleep for Africa! Fortunately I have five whole days free to recuperate before my new job starts on the 11th January, teaching Geography once more in a private prep school in
Bulla RegiaBulla RegiaBulla Regia

Roman troglodyte dwellings
South London, and I am really looking forward to this now. A big contrast from the beginning of my holiday, when I was really nervous about the change, and going back to teaching kiddy-winks after 3 and a half years of well-behaved adults, but now I feel ready and this holiday certainly did me good.

Anyway, this being a travel blog and all, I'll update now with the final leg of my journey - from the off-the-beaten track, and fantastic destination of El Kef back to the capital Tunis. Unfortunately the final few days didn't involve as many great places as the rest of my trip, and each day seemed to bring about a slight problem, but it actually all contributed to my final few days in the country being more restful and relaxing than anticipated, which was sorely needed after the previous two weeks.

I last wrote after having just arrived in the fantastic, hilltop citadel town of El Kef, with the plan to stay there for a whopping 4 nights. In the end, this was only 3, but it was still a great place to be. My second full day there I caught a louage to
Ain DrahamAin DrahamAin Draham

Not too bad, seen from afar...
another nearby Roman site of Bulla Regia. Although I'd just seen Dougga the day before, BR was recommended by an American family who I'd chanced upon meeting again in El Kef after meeting the previous week way further south in the hobbit-hole of Matmata, and I took them up on their recommendation. Very interesting - this was the only place in the whole of the vast Roman Empire where the houses were built underground, similar to Matmata, to escape the North African heat. This meant that you could actually walk into a fully-enclosed Roman room, complete with entrance, steps and mosaics - well worth it! Unfortunately though, the setback here was that the House of Amphritite, the site's "star attraction" seemed to be guarded by a pack of stray dogs whose barking put me right off visiting - I seemed to be the only tourist there, and the dogs were apparently deciding where I was and was not to visit. Since my childhood fear of dogs did not allow me any nearer, I left the best house unvisited. But not to worry, I was impressed with the rest.

After this, another louage up to the mountain town of Ain
TunisTunisTunis

Ville Nouvelle
Draham, nestled high up in the Kroumirie Mountains, Tunisia's endowment of the final foothills of the Atlas mountains before they taper off into the Mediterranean. This was actually a major disappointment, as it was dubbed by all the guidebooks and tourist information literature as "the Switzerland of Tunisia", with sloping rooves sheltering chalet-like dwellings, forested peaks and snow in the winter, but upon actual arrival, just seemed like a grey, drizzly dump to me, with the most unfriendly locals I'd met in the country. Without meaning to be too rude, but thoroughly satisfying to get off my chest, the type of mountain populace cut off from surrounding areas and the "interconnecting" of families that this might suggest, kind of like Andorra but worse. To top it off, the town is actually only en route between two other larger settlements, Jendouba and Tabarka, and thus has no transport starting and finishing there itself. This meant that disembarking from my louage upon arrival, I was met with a crush of people fighting to get my seat onto Tabarka in the other direction. Kind of odd I thought, but then realised that I would most likely be facing this scrum on the way
Bulla RegiaBulla RegiaBulla Regia

A threatening sky overlooks the Memmian Baths
back. True enough, after lunch I decided it not worth hanging around and joined the 20 or so other people awaiting the few and far between louages heading back to Jendouba. To my great relief, and thanks be to God as I didn’t really want to spend a frustrating afternoon of pushing and shoving, the next louage that arrived stopped right in front of me, and with a swift flick of the wrist, I was in the door in one of the few available spaces and breathing a sigh of relief on my way back to Jendouba.

Despite saying all this, I’m sure the forested mountains around Ain Draham are great for a hike, wildlife-spotting and the like, and maybe I should really have spent more time there before I criticise…

Anyway, the next morning I’d booked a taxi at 9am to take me to nearby Jugurtha’s Table, a flat-topped mountain which for several centuries was used as a hideaway for local bandits, rebels and similar types, and today is supposedly a great hike to the top for amazing views all around, including across the border into Algeria. However, another unfortunate turn out of events here involved the
Bulla Regia MosaicBulla Regia MosaicBulla Regia Mosaic

Found in "The House of the New Hunt"
taxi driver not actually showing up, and the place being a bummer to get to without private transport, I decided it about time to move on from fantastic El Kef and spent my last two nights in Tunis.

Thus, my final louage back to the capital, and for a relatively relaxing sojourn before departure.

My last day, on Tuesday, I spent the morning in Tunis’s famous Bardo Museum, housing most of the mosaics and statues of the Roman sites which I’d already visited on my trip – El Jem, Dougga and Bulla Regia, amongst others also. My final unfortunate event here was that the vast majority of the collection was closed to the public, due to a huge extension being built, to be completed sometime in 2012, and leaving only around 5 or so rooms open. Nevertheless, what I did see certainly warranted the visit. My final afternoon I spent wandering around the Medina, the old town of Tunisia, which I actually found to be a thoroughly pleasant experience. For one thing, as mentioned, Tunisia is a darn sight more hassle-free than Morocco for tourists, and this included medinas, where in Morocco you spend most of the time
Me and Faycel GhidaouiMe and Faycel GhidaouiMe and Faycel Ghidaoui

A friendly El Kef resident
trying to get rid of the touts, kids and dodgies following you around trying to be your guide, or just wanting money from you. For another, I spent the time with my MP3 in my ears, which meant I didn’t hear any touts, kids or dodgies even if they did say anything to me, and this worked a treat – I recommend this to anyone in this situation, and will certainly use this tactic again upon future travels and visits in crazy places!!

Journey back absolutely fine, meeting a great Italian guy, Guido, in Rome as we both waited for our connecting flights, and wow – Derek and Penny Oliver at Heathrow airport, on their way to Kenya!! My brother’s sister-in-law and her husband, who I hadn’t seen for so long, and whose paths I happened to cross coming back to London! Great stuff!

So alas, this brings me to the end of my fantastic trip to Tunisia. I’ve certainly enjoyed writing this blog, and thanks to anyone for reading it. After this, I’ll be looking for Arabic classes in London, to hopefully prepare me for future Middle Eastern trips – perhaps Syria and Lebanon at Easter, and
TunisTunisTunis

The towers of the Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Paul, and Tunis Medina in the background.
then maybe Southern or Western Africa for the Summer – watch this space for more!

In the meantime, wishing everyone all the best, and hope you like the photos! Unfortunately the quality of my photos did deteriorate slightly towards the end of my trip, as my camera has never been quite the same since the sands of the Sahara seemingly slipped into the system and caused it to do strange things ever since... Anyway.

Sallam wa’allikum to all!

Alex



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Bardo MuseumBardo Museum
Bardo Museum

Neptune Mosaic
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Local Tradesman

Tunis Medina
Fish MarketFish Market
Fish Market

Tunis Medina
Me and GuidoMe and Guido
Me and Guido

Rome Fiumicino Airport


9th February 2012
Byzantine Baptismal Font

Most interesting piture of the byzantine fornt ....thank you.......
9th February 2012
Byzantine Baptismal Font

You're welcome - it was a beautiful font!
5th August 2013
Byzantine Baptismal Font

Byzantine Baptismal Font
Very interesting. Do you have any more detail? Like size, history, age etc.

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