This winter, I took a 7 day road trip through Tunisia and I couldn’t have loved it more. Follow me on my journey to the heart of this amazing country…
The oranges and olives are being harvested, the buganvilia are in full bloom, the salty air at the coast and the dryness of the desert will be a welcome change to filtered and/or heated air we breathe during winter and … did I mention the sun?
If you’re looking for a quick escape from winter, Tunisia’s got your back!
Here’s our route:
Getting to Tunis and renting a car is your first step. Your second step is to immediately make for the road and for quiet, calm, (at this time of year) not over-crowded Kairouan and its carpet weavers. Kairouan is considered the fourth holiest city of Islam, next only to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, made more famous – and brilliatly captured – by Paul Klee and his paintings of the city.
The next stop for us couldn’t be more different from Kairouan. Tozeur is vibrant, an old city of trade and commerce. With hundreds of thousands of palm trees, Tozeur is a large oasis, with hot desert climate, typical for the northern outskirts of the Sahara desert. Tozeur, a well as the surrounding Jerid region, is noted not only for allegedly producing the best dates in the world, but also for its yellow/brownish brickwork as well as its fascinating patterns in simple and rich geometric designs form the façades of most buildings. They are built in this way, because the part of the stones who stick out of the walls automatically create shade and by building this way, the structure basically shades itself – even under the plain heat of the desert.
Tozeur is located right next to the salt-lake Chott el-Jérid, known for its Fata Morganas, it’s danger and famously described by Karl May and then of course ultimately rendered famous as a filming-location of the Star Wars series. Along this part of the trip, you’ll see mountains of salt, long abandoned cars which got stuck in the salt and – if you’re lucky – one or the other Fata Morgana.
Once you have crossed the sea of salt, you will find yourself in ancient berber territory. In the hot and dry valleys of this region, people have traditionally lived underground for centuries. In recent times, most have moved into more conventional homes, but some people still inhabit these troglodyte houses. These homes are concentrated around the city of Matmata. They are unique, highly unusual structures and although similar ones can be found all around the globe, these are the only ones made of earth, providing shelter from the heat in summer and keeping the warmth of the day for winter nights. For a unique and highly authentic experience of a culture that will soon be lost, if things continue the way they do, I highly suggest you take this little detour and also visit the museum, decicated to Berber culture in Tamrezet (irregular hours, free entry, donations are highly appreciated).
The next part of our trip takes us to the mediterranean coast – but neither to Sfax, nor Hammamet, nor to Djerba, but to a city that’s just as gorgeous but just a little less frequented… Welcome to Monastir.
This is the place to do, what one does in a mediterranean city. You enjoy the beach and the sea, you eat all the fish and seafood you can handle and you let the sunset over the mediterranean take care of all that built up winter frustration.
From here it’s one last trip, back up to Carthage and Tunis, along miles and miles and miles of orange and olive plantations. In Carthage, if you still have some time left, the famous old ruins await and they bring with them a touch of greatness, whispering through the millenia. Right next to it lies the little town of Sidi Bou Said, with it’s pittoresque reputation as a town of artists – once again made famous by Paul Klee and August Macke.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this trip or if you maybe want to take a similar one and need some more specific information. I’ll be happy to reply.