Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Touring In Tunisia

Tunis, our port city, is the capital of Tunisia. Tunisia is located in Northern Africa and our visit aboard the Disney Magic marks our first visit to the continent. Tunisia is located between the countries of Algeria and Libya. The coast of Tunisia was settled in the 10th century B.C. by the Phoenicians. In the 6th century B.C. Carthage rose to power but was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century B.C. Afterwards, it was held by Vandals and Byzantines for two centuries and in the 7th century it was conquered by Arabs. The region became known as Ifriqiya and the Berber population was converted to Islam. Successive Muslim dynasties ruled, interrupted by Berber rebellions. The reigns of the Aghlabids in the 9th century and of the Zirids (from 972), Berber followers of the Fatmids, were especially prosperous. When the Zirids angered the Fatimids in Cairo (1050) the latter ravaged Tunisia. The coasts were briefly held by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century. In 1159, Tunisia was conquered by the Almohad caliphs of Morocco. The Almohads were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids under whom Tunisia prospered. In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but there were recovered for Islam by the Ottoman Turks. Under its Turkish governors, the beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. In the late 16th century the coast became a pirate stronghold. The Hussein dynasty of beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957.

We actually docked in La Goulette, not Tunis and our ship was greeted by several camels, their handlers and two bands playing music. Tunis was the only port where we booked a Disney Cruise Line tour. We had not found any private tour guides on Cruise Critic or Trip Advisor with good ratings so decided to stay with the safety of Disney. Our excursion, as I’d posted before our cruise in the blog, was a Jeep 4x4 excursion into Tunisia. All of the Jeeps were in fact Toyota Landcruisers or similar large engine SUVs…there wasn’t a “Jeep” in the lot (thank goodness, since Jeeps aren’t the most reliable vehicles). There were 8 vehicles, each with 5 to 6 guests in them. We traveled in a convoy fashion – always sticking together. Truth be told, we really only needed the 4x4 capability and high ground clearance for 1 spot in the whole trip and that was for a bridge that had either been washed out or was under construction. All other travel was on paved roads or graded gravel. Our first stop was in what appeared to be a “made for tourists” example of a Berber village. There were only a few people there and they seemed to be there only to play a little music, bake a little bread and “populate” the exhibit. I asked our Disney person on the trip if we were going to see a “real” town at some point. He said he didn’t know. Hmmmm? We did enjoy the Berber bread with honey and olive oil and the spiced tea. The elaborate tiled bath area was also worth a look.

We got back in our SUVs and made our way to stop #2. On the way we passed a small pickup truck loaded down with beds – headboards, footboards and mattresses. We expected the truck to turn over at any time given its high center of gravity. We also passed a number of people riding their donkeys or leading one piled high with varying types of goods. I found the Tunisia countryside to be really interesting. There were olive trees everywhere. The landscape (minus the olive trees) reminded me of Arizona or even northern California with the hills and dry land.

Stop #2 turned out to be a real town. Our convoy of SUVs entered the small town square where there was a little market going on – simple things like sheets, blankets and various household items. We were lead to a high point in the town, past the local mosque, where we could take pictures. We also visited a typical house, which had few furnishings but seemed to be well made. Inside was a woman in traditional dress who wove/braided grass into various craft items. Most of the locals were dressed in this traditional manner; however, I was struck when I noticed a few women wearing Crocs – the rubber shoes that have become so popular in the U.S. The younger kids seemed to be wearing more Westernized clothes.

Soon it was time to get back in our SUVs and head to stop #3, which was some Roman ruins. These were pretty interesting but I knew they would pale in comparison to what we would see soon in Rome. We spent about 20 minutes at this third stop before moving onto our final stop nearby where we had lunch.

This last stop was at a restaurant/resort. We had a nice salad, bread, some type of grilled bird (we joked that it might have been crow), cous cous and fruit. It was a good meal. After about 45 minutes, we were on the road again for our 1 hour drive back to the port. All in all, we give this tour a thumbs up but it was a lot of driving.


Jan said...

No more blog entries? How was the rest of the trip?

Jlspence said...

There will be more entries. Just have to find the time to do it and Katy said she'd help me.

Disney Vacation Cruise said...

That looked like a really fun trip.