Travel: Sands to the South, Sea to the North, Sun All Round; Tourism Is the New Religion in Sun-Scorched, Laid-Back Tunisia, Says an Intrigued Robin Turner

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Travel: Sands to the South, Sea to the North, Sun All Round; Tourism Is the New Religion in Sun-Scorched, Laid-Back Tunisia, Says an Intrigued Robin Turner


Byline: Robin Turner

MY Walesish friend'', said my eccen Tunisian guide Karim, ``Forget the fut . . . let's go fishing.'' I couldn't h thinking Karim's response to discussion on what would happen nex Palestine summed up the Tunisians and Tunisia.

Situated between troubled Libya and Algeria on sun-sscorched North African coast this former Fre colony of 10m souls is surprisingly non-political.

Its past as the nerve centre of the once mighty, s raiding Carthaginians is long gone - the origi Vandals saw to that.

Not a strict Muslim country, tourism is the

religion of Tunisia which basks un year round sunshine and has more t 700 miles of sandy beaches dotted w good four and five star hotels.

The people are hard working, frien inquisitive and as my guide Kar showed . . . sometimes a little strangel The Tunisian tourist authority ploughed millions of pounds over past five years into building high cl hotels in resorts such as Gamma overlooking glorious Tunis Bay.

But September 11 cast a giant shad over the success of the costly exercise So parties of journalists have b flown to Tunisia to testify to its kissed, non threatening (apart from bomb blast at Djerba in the south of country last April), generally laid b nature.

Why then, I wondered, was the f attraction I was shown a Music Muse kitted out with ancient instrumen many of which were British?

Even Karim, enthusing about the museum, w perturbed by the attitude of the curators who refu any photographs (though all lenses were firm covered) and followed every visitor closely, seemin believing the ancient musical artifacts would jealously prized by untrustworthy British journalists At one point, Karim held his head in his hands shouted, ``My God, they've moved the Scott bagpipes, where are the bagpipes, where are they?'' After a maniacal run, in 40C heat, he finally loca them. They looked like some kind of dead animal w a pipe sticking out of its stomach.

Fortunately, Tunisia has a lot more to offer than Music Museum, not least the magnificent Romamphitheatre at El Jem, around two hours drive from the capital, Tunis.

It is thought by many to be the single most impressive monument in Africa and compares favourably with the spectacular remains of the Colosseum in Rome.

Crowds of more than 30,000 regularly came to watch circus shows and bloody gladiatorial contests here.

Just like in Rome, visitors can sit on the same seats, some still in the original marble coverings which the amphitheatre regulars used to enjoy 2,000 years ago. …

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