Atlas North: A Tour through Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria
A day exploring Tunis and Carthage by private car with visits to the ruins of Carthage (Museum and the Acropolium – St. Louis Cathedral, Roman Theater, Amphitheater, Roman Villas, and Antonine Baths), The Residence Tunis, Bardo Museum, and Sidi Bou Said.
Coming from Casablanca, my solo journey in Tunisia commenced. I went through immigration without a hitch, completing Country 64!
After checking into Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa in Yasmine Hammamet, I relaxed for the evening as I had a full day of touring coming up!
The next morning after a quick breakfast I met my driver arranged by the hotel for an 8 am departure.
His name was Ibrahim and he loved to talk. It was interesting to learn about life in Tunisia which seems titter on a delicate balance of modern influences of the west and traditional muslim principles.
Besides a coffee stop, we went directly to Carthage.
The city founded some 3,000 years ago was once the center of the Carthaginian Empire and later a capital Roman city. Present day, it is an upscale neighborhood of Tunis while the ancient ruins are a protected UNESCO world heritage site.
There are several sites spread around the area that can be visited with a single ticket. Some didn’t even have ticket checkers.
Carthage Museum and the Acropolium (St. Louis Cathedral)
We started at the museum and cathedral on the top of Byrsa Hill. Some ruins overlook Tunis on the edge of the museum grounds which exhibit sculptures and mosaics excavated from the ruins.
Then to the theater which looked like it was still being used with a stage set up and lighting.
The amphitheater was quite deserted except for a shepherd and his sheep. The grounds were quite well preserved with the central lower level excavated with a room that could be entered. A shady man who pretended to unlock the gate showed me in, but due to the isolated area, I left in a hurry.
The next stop was a group of villas with well preserved mosaics still in their original place on the ground. Other excavated mosaics were stacked in a hallway of the ruins.
My favorite site was the baths of Antonine. These ruins sit on the seaside with magnificent columns and the largest Roman baths outside of Rome. There were also graves, a chapel, and more mosaics.
For lunch, I sat with the GM at the original luxury hotel of Tunis.
A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, this property sits on the beach of the Mediterranean, complete with a Thalasso Spa and an 18 hole golf course.
This luxury hotel is a landmark in Tunis as the first luxury hotel in the area. Several large hotel groups are following suit.
After a delicious lunch of fresh fish and an enlightening conversation on business in Tunisia, I toured the property and enjoyed a massage at the spa.
Into Tunis city, I visited the famed museum known for its collection of Roman artifacts. Passed the armed guards and bar wire of the entrance was a well organized and professional exhibit.
The gigantic wall sized mosaics were very impressive.
After the museum I found my driver who had an impromptu date with his fiancé. He told me that they have dated for three months but he’s never touched her. What a stark contrast from the whistling and catcalling driver I’ve come to know.
Sidi Bou Said
The last stop of the day was the artsy town perched on the hill north of Tunis. Known for the white and blue color scheme, it draws crowds with its quaint streets, shopping, and cafes.
As the sun set, we returned to Hammamet. I enjoyed a fine dining dinner at the hotel before relaxing for the evening.
Next up is Kairouan and El Djem!