by -
0 339

Tunisia hasn’t exactly had a lot of positive press lately, and for understandable reasons. The country’s disposal of its less than democratic ruler triggered revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa, which became known as the Arab Spring. Yet, what you likely haven’t heard is that unlike neighboring Libya and fellow countries on the block Egypt and Syria, Tunisia has made huge strides towards democracy, and is no longer embroiled in the conflict it found itself in back in 2011. Now once again safe for tourists to visit, this country that sits perched at the top of North Africa has a lot to offer tourists, and one event that’s certainly open for visitors is the month-long International Festival of Sousse, which runs from July 16th all the way through until August 16th.

Sousse is situated 140 kilometres south of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, and enjoys an enviable climate, with an average temperature of twenty four degrees Celsius, meaning that those seeking out some sunshine would be wise to head to the North African nation, especially as cheap flights to Tunisia are easy to come by from destinations all over Europe. Sousse has a lot going for it, and visitors often find themselves becoming spellbound, and subsequently lost, in the maze-like alleys of the city’s souks. The Medina of Sousse is a UNESCO World Heritage site, ascending to its current status in 1988, and tombs dating back to when the city state of Carthage dominated the region. And it goes without saying that there’s a whole lot of fresh produce to satisfy food lovers, with olives, dates and couscous just waiting to be delved into.

beach in SousseThe International Festival of Sousse serves to add even more to the mix, and this year marks the 47th edition of the festival. Tunisian musicians and artists dominate the lineup at the festival, and performers from neighboring countries as well as Romania, Italy, Belgium, Syria and Lebanon add their artistic stylings into the mix, and Russia is also sending its Symphonic Orchestra across to Tunisia. Music isn’t the only focus of the festival though, with screenings of feature films and animations also happening all across the city.

The diversity of Tunisian culture and history is celebrated at the International Festival of Sousse, and for a country nestled among the African giants of Libya and Algeria, Tunisia’s history sure is an impressive one. Before gaining independence in 1956, Tunisia changed hands many times over the course of history, with the Romans, Ottomans and the French being in charge of the country, not to mention the Galactic Empire. That’s right, Star Wars fans – scenes involving Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet, were filmed in Tunisia, with set locations not being too far away from Sousse.

Lodging during the festival shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, as Sousse is a city that welcomes tourists with open arms, with hotels catering to tourists arriving from the nearby airport in Monastir. Tunisia’s third largest city, Sousse has the tourist infrastructure necessary to both handle and welcome the influx of people who come to experience and be immersed in true Tunisian culture.

Don’t let the media fool you into thinking Tunisia is a country to be avoided – when was the last time you heard about a country successfully getting back on its feet again in the news? Exactly. Tunisia is back open for business, and there’s no better place to get a taster for one of the African continent’s most accessible countries than at the International Festival of Sousse, with its world-class lineup taking place in the height of summer.

However, with only 2 weeks still to go, if you are interested in attending the festival, you’ll have to act quickly! Luckily, First Choice have some great deals to Tunisia for you to take advantage of.

 About the AuthorTerrance Richardson is a keen writer, explorer and musician. He is particularly interested in music in different cultures but is also a big food lover.

by -
0 189

Far from the commercialism of Tunis City, in a forgotten quiet glade away from the crowds, several small statues forming Le Tophet rise from a dip in the earth.

1) Le Tophet: photo from Wikipedia


These unassuming relics are virtually the only remnant of the great Phoenician civilization which had its capital at Carthage.  Regrettably the statues’ provenance is not pleasant.  The stones crudely depict child sacrifice, a ritual around the ancient Middle East that was practiced often enough, mostly in times of crisis.  The Phoenicians, those great navigators and civilizers of the Mediterranean, Europe, and Africa, were not immune to the call of blood.

The Romans put an end to the Phoenician culture.  Such was the ferocity of the the hatred that they razed Carthage to the ground, salted the very dirt under its center, and built their own city on the wreckage.

1) Roman ruins at Carthage

I once camped for a couple of weeks in the modern Tunis suburb of La Goulette .  Perhaps the most urban campground I have ever frequented, it was located on a dirty beach that overlooked the Tunis Roads and port and was just a kilometer or so from Carthage.  The place was a maze of tents and encampments enclosed on either side by stone jetties. Big ships waited offshore for their chance to offload their cargoes in the port and the ocean was not particularly clean.

2) Port of Tunis near La Goulette

Here gathered a mixed collection of travelers.  Some waited for boats to Sicily.  Others, like myself, fielded the bureaucracy of the local Libyan embassy, attempting to obtain permission to travel in the land of Ghaddafi.

But the complex of Roman architecture nearby at Carthage was inspiring in itself.

3) Ancient beachfront foundations near the campground

I would spend afternoons clambering around the ruins with new friends, searching for evidence that the Phoenicians had once inhabited the area.  The Romans, however, did a splendid  job of destruction and eliminated all traces of their enemies with the exception of the Tophet.  Hard to understand the reasoning, if indeed there was any.

4) Roman arena

I only ventured into Tunis on official business.  The unfriendly staff at the Libyan embassy first said I had to have my passport translated into Arabic before they would consider issuing a visa.  This was part of the Libyan program to wipe any trace of European colonialism from their day-to-day life.  Despite the fact that the officials I spoke with spoke good English, the country had taken great impractical steps to pretend that European languages no longer existed.  Thus my passport, written only in English and French, was not sufficiently communicative to allow entry into their country.

I went to the Canadian embassy to have my passport reworked.  They were helpful, but the kind woman who transcribed my information into written Arabic was functionally illiterate in the language of Mohamed, and the Libyans were unable to read her scribbles.

The actual city of Tunis came as a rude shock after my months in remote North African deserts.  Highly Europeanized, it felt trashy, fake, and kitsch.

5) Touristic goofiness in Tunis

What passed for the old quarter was overrun with tour groups seeking fashionable yet gaudy local textiles and other meaningless trinkets.  I barely saw the beauty of the seaside city.

6) Old and new in Tunis

So La Goulette became a refuge from my battles with the Libyans and Canadians.  I wasn’t sure which of the two parties was less understanding of the realities of travel.

7) Scenery at Carthage

But the campground contained its hazards.  One day, while talking with a French guy beside my sleeping bag – I didn’t possess a tent and left my gear loosely on the beach beside a circle of fire stones – several policemen charged onto the beach.  They ran directly to a tent not far away and pulled out another Frenchman, taking him away in handcuffs.  I later learned that he had been sampling the local male talent in his tent and affronted somebody or other who called the cops.

I departed Tunis and La Goulette finally, catching a flight to Tripoli.   I’d discovered that the border between Libya and Egypt was closed down and everyone who was headed East had to fly on to Cairo.

So Carthage days became just another memory.