Oh, the Middle East, the Middle East. How we love your romantic, dusky desert panoramas, spice markets, and unbeatable, greasy shawarma. Oh how we can’t stand the systematic oppression of women in so many of your lands. And OH how many different responses we receive when we announce our travel plans to cities within your borders.
Look, this isn’t going to be a religious post (um, ya know, cause I’m not religious) and it’s not going to be a political post either. At the end of the day, most world religions have done a great job of silencing and belittling women since the beginning of time, which is why it baffles me when Americans like to pretend that things are so much dangerous “over there.” But don’t get me on my soap box, or I’ll be here all damn day.
‘Cause really, I’m here to tell you about Tunisia – arguably the most Westernized country in the Middle East/Northern Africa. Surprised? In some ways, they are even more supportive of women than Western countries. Actually, scratch that – they are WAY more supportive of women. During my time in Sousse, a beautiful port city Southeast of Tunis, I learned that any man even verbally harassing a woman faces criminal charges and jail time. As a person who has spent most of her life in North America, let me tell you that blew my goddamned mind.
Be smart. Probably don’t go out in a thong and pasties. 😉 But otherwise, don’t stress and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home. Oh except for the next few things on this list!
While Tunisia isn’t known for being the culinary capital of the Middle East (Jordan…looking at you), there are a few dishes you should DEFFOS make time for, the first being lamb couscous. Who doesn’t like lamb tenderloin that’s been roasting for ten hours and practically falls off the bone? Add to that a generous bed of the best couscous you’ve ever had with potatoes and veggies.
Don’t forget to order an appetizer of salad maschouia – a green chili and olive oil dip for your bread. For lunch, you will probably have a fair amount of shawarma (and who’s complaining?) and don’t forget the gelato! Tunisia is just across the Med from Italy and you practically can’t escape the gelato shops on every corner, so you might as well just give in and buy copious amounts every day like I did.
2. Visit the City Center
Doesn’t matter what city. They all have an amazing old city area with shops full of hand painted ceramics, olive wood handicrafts, and a great deal more. There are also plenty of restaurants to curb your shopping appetite. The old city is also where you will find activity number three….
3. Get Harkous
Usually reserved for weddings and special events, Tunisians have made a profit offering harkous to eager tourists as well. The Tunisian form of the more commonly known henna tattoo, Harkous is applied in designs that are specific to Tunisia and lasts on the skin between 3 and 5 weeks. While everyone in the country will immediately know you’re a tourist, it’s a pretty cool temporary souvenir to take home.
4. Go to the Beach
Mediterranean beaches have a reputation for being lovely and Tunisia is no exception. While most of them will be quite crowded in the summer (with tourists and locals alike) quieter beaches are just a car ride away. The water is just cool enough to do the job in the desert weather and with all the salt in the water, you can float for days. My personal favorite part of my beach visits were the rock formations surrounding them and the great photography shots.
5. Sidi Bou Said
If you’ve ever done a Pinterest search of Tunisia, you’ve seen Sidi You Said. Famous for it’s all white and blue architecture, amazing views of the ocean, and picturesque shops, it’s a must-do for everyone visiting. If you haven’t been to Sidi Bou Said, you haven’t been to Tunisia.
2. Coliseum of El-Jem
What? There’s a coliseum in Tunisia? Yup, another sign of the major Roman influence in a time gone by. The coliseum of El-Jem is not only an impressive feat of architecture, but there will be plenty of men out front offering to take you for a ride around it on a CAMEL. Once you’re finished paying for the ride, head inside the coliseum to take pictures and wander around the massive structure. There are often events taking place in the evenings at the coliseum, so be sure to check before your trip! We got to see the Venetian Orchestra, which was a breathtaking experience.
7. Parasailing in Port El Kantaoui
You know I have to save the adrenaline bender for last! Enter parasailing over the Mediterranean in a multi-colored parachute while attached to a motorboat. It’s a priceless memory and a damn good time.
That just about wraps it up for my top 7 activities in Tunisia! There’s tons more to do in this desert jewel of a country, but if I made this article any longer we would be here all day. Be sure to check out my socials for more world wide wander!