After rocking on the Seine last weekend, this was the moment I was eagerly waiting for, a chance to enjoy seven days of relaxation and sun.
Previously having visited Luxor and The Gambia, Tunisia would not necessarily have been my first choice for an ‘African Adventure’, but with the option of staying a for a week in Tunisia’s most visited 5* Port el Kantouai, I wasn’t about to complain. Though, I wondered, would it change my perception of Tunisia?
Less than three hours after taking off from Manchester we were touching down at Monastir airport. Stepping out of the plane the heat instantly hit me. A ‘sun junkie’ would be a bit of a descriptive understatement, but the day I stop globetrotting and my skin returns to its natural colour will be a very sad day indeed.
We arrived at a white washed Arab styled hotel complete with red carpet upon entrance.
Welcome to the El Mouradi Palace.
Views of the Med from the tastefully designed room, fruit and wine upon arrival and a week on an ‘ultra all inclusive’ basis were to await us. A new concept for Tunisia, and in particular El Mouradi (the biggest hotel chain in Tunisia) is the ‘ultra all inclusive option’. Not only do you get the usual all inclusive benefits, but extras such as complimentary room service through the night, free massage, pedicure/manicure, and after last week’s encounter with the Paris Mosque quite excitedly a free Hamann visit.
After sussing out the hotel and its facilities and enjoying the buffet dinner, it was time to make the most of our first evening in Tunisia. Having a preference of doing things off the tourist trail, a 15 minute taxi experience (or horse and carriage, bus, shuttle or even noddy train) dropped us off outside the Medina of Sousse which is Tunisia’s third largest city. It is much more traditional and authentic than Port el Kantaoui. Having warned my friend Liza that as it was the first night, shopping was off the cards, the traders insisted they would give us prices ‘cheap as chips’ and we would ‘pocket the difference’. I was tempted when one came out with a direct offer of three camels and 20 Dinars in exchange for Liza. Temptation didn’t get the better of me, and we appeared to be the only tourists in sight as we weaved through the back streets before finding refuge outside a Tunisian tea room.
Watching the city of Sousse (or Soussa as they call it) go by from here was certainly the best seat in the house. A true representation of Tunisian life; the women in their traditional dress, the young boys on their mopeds, and the groups of old men catching up on today’s news (and old news).
Tunisia is mainly a Muslim country and whilst there, Ramadan the Muslim fasting festival was being observed. The rules of Ramadan mean no food or drink can be consumed during the hours of daylight. So in the evenings, once the Tunisians have consumed a mountainous amount of cous cous for dinner, they really do hit the streets with their new found carb energy. It appears they are in a much better mood in the evenings here at the moment (unsurprisingly really as this is the first time in 30 years Ramadan has happened during the summer). Although unable to drink alcohol (due to their religion) the Tunisian population really do know how to have a good time.
Our first full day there was going to be nothing but relaxation. A stroll through the hotel grounds to our own private beach stretching out into the warm waters of the Mediterranean. A chance to get out the factor 35 (seriously) and indulge in the freshly squeezed orange juice. This is the life! Time to decide how to spend the next five days…but not just yet though, it’s time to catch up on a few zzzzzzz….
Ciao for now, Craig