As the week comes to an end, we’ve had a relaxing time and still managed to see some of the ‘real’ Tunisia.
One evening we decided to eat out early so took a short taxi south of Port El Kantaoui to the port of Sousse, Tunisia’s third largest city. An ancient settlement invaded in turn by Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, French and finally Tourists. It has an impressive stretch of beach and promenade. We headed for the bustling Medina. Although there are plenty of tacky souvenir shops and open air stalls there is ‘real’ Tunisia too.
Strolling through the narrow alleys we stumbled across a local cafe where there were groups of men playing cards, drinking tea and smoking shisha pipes.
Using tourist-speak, we negotiated a price for a trip with a local taxi driver using our combination of Arabic, English and French and set out north of our resort to the small fishing port of Hergla. It is pretty with whitewashed buildings, traditional blue paintwork and flowering shrubs. The local market was ‘local produce for local people’. Like Sousse, some stalls were more like a car boot sale than a commercial market.
We stopped for a drink in the cliff-top cafe overlooking the sea (and the local cemetery) before strolling round the town accompanied by the amplified prayers from the architecturally dominant mosque.
Hotel Kanta offered three kinds of entertainment each evening. There was a piano player in the sophisticated lounge bar, karaoke in the Irish’ pub and a variety show on the external terrace (complete with stage). During the week there were traditional Tunisian dancers; belly dancing and transvestites miming, badly, to show songs which was the most popular! The ‘fakir’ show included the usual ‘bed of nails’ and ‘walking on broken glass’. But the highlight was when several men from the audience, including myself, were asked to assist the fakir in bending a sword by pressing it into his stomach. Actually I only have Toni’s word for this as I was pressed up against the back of the performer and if the sword went through him I would have been next!
As an alternative, we took a stroll to the local marina and the shopping area pausing to people watch. In the centre of the restaurant area there is a large set of illuminated ‘dancing’ fountains that are set to music and provide a focus for attention.
We enjoyed our stay in Tunisia and the tourist haven of Port El Kantaoui. If the timing and price was right we would definitely return for another chill-out week. There is no doubt that we are returning home refreshed for the next half of our Birmingham Mail/lastminute.com globetrotting adventure.