Time to return to Tunisia?
Two years after terrorist attacks at the resort town of Sousse, the FCO has lifted its travel warning for most of Tunisia. Lonely Planet’s Middle East expert Helen Elfer is just back from the country. Here she shares some of the highlights from her visit to this ‘most unique and welcoming place’.
Sidi Bou Said is a pretty town about 12 miles from Tunis, with all its houses painted white and blue. It has lots of little artisan shops and cafés, and interesting nooks to explore. It proved to be super-photogenic. I visited troglodyte dwellings in and around Matmata, including one that was used as the setting for Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars Episode IV. There were no other visitors at the Roman town of Carthage and that made it even more magical. The views from the hilltop ruins were epic. I felt I was looking out at the same scenes as the Romans once did. Tunisians say they grow the best dates in the world. I joined a date-palm festival in Douz, eating fruit freshly shaken from the trees in a beautiful man-made grove. No trip to Tunisia would be complete without some camel-spotting and it was thrilling to see whole herds of them wandering through the desert.
Driving across Tunisia’s salt-lake deserts, with nothing to see but flat blank landscapes, was incredible. My eyes started to play tricks on me and I learned from the driver how salt-lake deserts produce mirages: what you see is the sun reflecting off the dried salt. After a full day’s driving, I thought we were approaching a pool of water, but, nope, it was a mirage!