Africa Guide
Guide to Africa

Travelling in Tunisia in the Wake of the Arab Spring

Written by Hollie Mantle  - February 2015

With the rolling sands of the Sahara desert, vast expanses of coastline and dazzling blue skies and sunshine, the Tunisian landscape paints a truly stunning picture of Northern Africa. It’s such a shame then that travellers often overlook Tunisia as a holiday destination due to the enduring shadow cast by the Arab Spring.

This revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests, riots and civil wars may have deterred tourists for a while in 2010-2012 but now it’s not surprising that Tunisia is experiencing a new wave of excited holidaymakers who can’t wait to dip into the shimmering sand and sea. Tunisia is a gorgeous destination, with thousands of years of history and cultural heritage to its name and equally a welcoming heart towards modern non-Islamic traditions. Sounds pretty dreamy;!

The Tunisian Revolution all kicked off in 2010, when street vendor Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire as a drastic protest of the humiliation and harassment he felt he had suffered from officials. His act directly contributed to The Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, and led to the President stepping down from his post. Bouazizi and his followers are regarded as ‘heroic martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution’.

Since then however, Tunisia’s turbulent political storm has calmed to reflect the beautiful and peaceful nature of the country once more.tYou’ll find that the best and safest areas to explore in Tunisia reside within the northern half of the country, i.e. avoid those pesky borders with Libya and Algeria! Stick within the region that stretches from the Tunis region to Kébli or Tozuer in the mid-West. If you’re a bit doubtful of your geography skills then keep to the coast and you won’t go wrong. Port El-Kantaoui for example is one of the top destinations in Tunisia, with an abundance of shopping centres, award-winning golf courses, and the ‘pleasure garden’ port itself. It’s a veritable paradise! For you pirates and sea-farers at heart there is a vast range of adrenalin-pumping and soul-soothing water activities to dive into, including water skiing, parasailing, cruises and fishing. You can find some recommendations and more about what Port El-Kantaoui has to offer here. As an added bonus, the place has an impressive list of 3-5* hotels so you’ll really be pampered here.

Of course Tunis, as the capital of Tunisia, is also not one to miss! It is Tunisia’s largest city, with a population of over 650,000 people. The city is of great architectural interest as it has a charming balance of colonial-era buildings in the modern Ville Nouvelle and a backdrop of older infrastructure lying within the medina. The capital has witnessed a booming economy and prosperous commercial activity of late, meaning that you may struggle a bit to hold back your (multiple) credit cards! In fact, the grand Avenue Habib Bourguiba is often considered to be the Tunisian twin of the famous Parisian shopping mile: the Champs-Élysées.

Once you’ve exhausted your financial resources, you can take a moment to admire the cultural activities that the capital has available, including archaeological and military museums and prestigious musical institutions and theatres. The lovely nearby suburb of Carthage even hosts an annual internationally-renowned festival with vibrant arts performances set in an old amphitheatre. Actually, in Tunis you’re pretty spoilt for amazing festivals, particularly in the summer months – check some others out here.

Still feeling more beachy-keen than culture queen? Although it may be best to avoid the Sahara region for now, Tunisia has still got your needs sorted when it comes to frolicking through sand or even camel-riding. Djerba, a picturesque island located just off the coast of Tunisia is a perfect seaside retreat. It promises pristine waters and clear shores, and its old island town ‘Houmt Souk’ boasts whitewash houses and even more shopping opportunities. Sit back and relax, for there is nothing to interrupt your daydreams and idle fancies here! Yet another tranquil Tunisian haven just a short distance from the beach is the adorable village of Sidi Bou Said. It sits proudly at the top of a cliff, looking out onto the azure sea and magnificent views as far as the eye can travel. It also showcases whitewash buildings against vivid blue architectural details, making it a very popular setting for artists. Interested in dabbling with a paintbrush or just enjoying some quiet yet atmospheric village life? Learn more about Sidi Bou Said here.

Tunisia has emerged from the murky waters of the Arab Spring as no less of a striking and inviting country for travellers to enjoy. With an endless range of activities to try and unique breath-taking sights across the country, Tunisia is a true holiday treat. So when will you be booking your ticket?

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