Tuesday, 27 April 2010


I am sitting here on our balcony typing while waiting for our ship to sail away from Tunis. What a wonderful day we’ve had!

We arrived in La Goulette Harbour earlier today to the fanfare of a brass band as well as a welcome with a local troupe of musicians, dancers, camels and horses! We met up with Ben, our private tour guide, and started our day by visiting Carthage.

I have to be honest here and say that Carthage was not what I expected it to be. I had imagined in my mind that it was the ruins of a complete city. It is in fact a collection of little pockets of ruins that had been preserved amongst residential areas! However, with Ben’s explanation of the history of the site, I was able to appreciate the reasons for it being so. This doesn’t take away from the wonder of the technology and skills of the time, which was evident from the display of excavated artefacts displayed at the museum itself. Ben also took us around to see the remains of the Roman baths, the aquaduct system and the old harbour.

Next up was Sidi Bou Said, a picturesque little town of white and blue on top of a hill. Being in a minivan, we were fortunate enough to be able to drive right up, rather than having to walk up the hill from where the other Disney buses were. We were also taken around the back route to avoid the crowds and appreciate the beauty of the town at our own pace. We stopped for a quick break of local coffee and mint tea before heading back to downtown Tunis.

The blue and white of Sidi Bou Said

Plates for sale

Only 1 out of 2 doors in town which are not blue!

Are we in Africa or Europe?

We had a quick drive around for the highlights and then got off for a walk. Tunis is interesting as a city. The French influence is apparent, with tree lined avenues, European lamp posts and buildings. At the end of the main avenue, you suddenly come to the entrance of the souks of the Medina where the feel and atmosphere is completely different with narrow streets and colourful stalls. We weaved our way in and onto a mosque built in the 8th century. We were then taken past the perfume “section” and the “chechias” section. The chechias is the traditional head dress of Tunisia. At one of the shops, the shopkeeper kindly showed us how the chechias was made and even let us try one on for photos.

At this point, Lara desperately needed to go the toilet, and once again, we were able to go to the toilets at one of the shops without any pressure to buy any goods. All thanks to Ben. We were initially sceptical about organising a private tour with Ben as he was not with a “big” company. However, we have not regretted choosing to go with Ben at all. As a small group, we were able to move quickly and often overtook the big tour groups. We never felt unsafe at any stage. We were never hassled by any stall owners at the Medina nor at Sidi Bou Said. We did get invites to look at their goods but a friendly no sufficed for a return smile and a goodbye wave. Ben was professional and extremely knowledgeable. He spoke English very well and his passion for tourism was apparent. It was lovely to chat with him about his background during a lunch of local Tunisian cuisine. Thankfully the children loved “brick”, a local dish of pastry stuffed with egg and tuna then deep fried. It didn’t last for more than a minute before it was wolfed down. The restaurant only accepted local currency and so Ben again kindly went to the nearby back to exchange some money for us while we ate. The minivan has seen better days but it did just fine for our purposes. It was clean and had air-conditioning.

Coca-cola in arabic?

We returned to the ship exhausted once again! The children have gone for another swim and I can’t wait to lie down and sleep! Cruising certainly makes travelling with young children so much easier. I couldn’t imagine having to pack and unpack every so often, handling airports, trains or driving in unfamiliar territory on top of the sightseeing. We’ve certainly enjoyed simply waking up at a new port the next day. We feel that having only 1 day at each is only small sacrifice in the big scheme of things. There is always time to come back to our favourite ports of call when the children are older and more independent!
Well it appears that we are running late because a few of the Disney tours are late. Makes me happy that we came back on time!


  1. Wonderful blog so far. Thank you. My family is on the 5/15 cruise so we and many others from that cruise are reading your blog. Question: Ben your tour guide, is it any of the following:

    Ben Jebara M. Tahar
    Taha Ben Khoud

    I've been looking for months for a reputable tour guide in Tunis with no luck. Can you tell me what your Ben's contact info is? Jeff

  2. Great to hear you guys are having such a wonderful time. Can't wait for Panama Canal...

  3. Jeff, its Ben Jebara M. Tahar. expertravel@hotmail.fr
    Sorry the reply took a while. Internet is painfully slow!

    Sharon, we can't wait to share our experiences together on the Panama Canal Cruise. Its going to be a blast!!!