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The Rough Guide to Tunisia (Rough Guides)

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INTRODUCTION Tunisia, the Arab world's most liberal nation, is recognizably Mediterranean in cha…

INTRODUCTION Tunisia, the Arab world's most liberal nation, is recognizably Mediterranean in character and, in the north at least, predominantly European in style. Indeed, its popular image seems, at times, to verge on blandness, dominated as it is by the package holiday clichŽs of reliable sunshine, beautiful beaches and just a touch of the exotic. If this seems predictable, however, be assured that it forms only one side of the picture. Beyond the white sands of Jerba and Hammamet, there is a great deal to encourage more independent-minded travel: sub-Saharan oases and fortresses, medieval Islamic cities, and some of the finest of the world's surviving Roman sites. Being such a compact country, especially when compared to its North African neighbours, Tunisia is also very easy to get around. Even with a fortnight's holiday, it is quite feasible to take in something of each of the country's aspects of coast, mountains and desert. The journey from Tunis, the capital on the north coast, to Tataouine, in the heart of the desert, can be made in a little over ten hours by bus or shared taxi and, while most trips are considerably shorter, the majority of journeys in Tunisia leave an impression of real travel in the transformation from one type of landscape and culture to another. This immediacy makes the country very satisfying to explore - an accessible introduction to the Arab world and to the African continent. The country, sited strategically at a bottleneck in the Mediterranean, has long played an important role in North Africa's history. In antiquity it was the centre of Carthaginian civilization - the ruins of Carthage lie just outside modern Tunis - and, as that empire folded, it became the heartland of Roman Africa. Later, as Islam spread west, it was invaded and settled by Arabs, providing, in the cities of Kairouan, Tunis, Sousse and Sfax, vital power bases for North Africa's successive medieval dynasties. By the fifteenth century, the Europeans and Turks were also turning their attentions to Tunisia - a process that ultimately resulted in French colonization in the nineteenth century. Today, in its fourth decade of independence, Tunisia is a fully established modern nation and, by regional standards, relatively prosperous. Where to go If the diversity of Tunisia's past cultures and their legacy of monuments comes as a surprise to most first-time visitors, the range of scenery can be even more unexpected. In the north you find shady oak forests reminiscent of the south of France; in southern Tunisia, the beginning of the Sahara Desert, with colossal dunes, oases and rippling mirages. Between the extremes are lush citrus plantations, bare steppes with table-top mountains, and rolling hills as green and colourful (in spring) as any English county. Just offshore lie the sandy, palm-scattered islands of Jerba and Kerkennah. In terms of monuments, the Roman sites of the north are the best-known, and, even if your interest is very casual, many are quite spectacular. At El Jem, in the Sahel, an amphitheatre which rivals Rome's Colosseum towers above the plain; at Dougga you can wander around a marvellously preserved Roman city, complete with all the accoutrements and buildings of second- and third-century prosperity; and there are sites, scarcely less grand, at Utica, Bulla Regia, Maktar and Sbe•tla, as well as the legendary, extensive and much-battered Carthage. They're all atmospheric places to visit and at the smaller sites off the excursion routes, you'll find yourself, as often as not, enjoying them alone. Islamic Tunisia has a varied architectural legacy, taking in early Arab mosques - most outstandingly at Kairouan, the first Arab capital of North Africa - and the sophisticated Turkish buildings of Tunis, as well as the strange Berber fortresses of the south. The latter are accompanied by equally weird structures known as ghorfas, honeycombed storage and living quarters, and, at Matmata, by underground houses. All reward the small effort it takes to get off the more beaten tracks. For more hedonistic pleasures, the coast is at its most beautiful - and most commercialized - around Hammamet, Sousse-Monastir and the island of Jerba (connected by causeway to the mainland). Hammamet is a genuinely international resort and its satellites are spreading; but, by Spanish or Greek island standards, developments remain relatively small-scale and unusually well planned. Escaping them entirely is not hard either: even within sight of Hammamet, on Cap Bon, there is still wild coastline; Bizerte, on the north coast, has good sands and more character; whilst the Kerkennah islands still retain genuine fishing villages. Your time should ideally include a spell in the desert and mountains as well as on the coast. The oases at Nefta and Tozeur are classically luxuriant, while further south, the ksour (extraordinary, fortified granaries) around Tataouine and dunes around Remada give the region an almost expeditionary feel (indeed, many people choose to go on organized "safaris", easily arranged locally). In the mountains of the northwest, Le Kef is an ideal place to rest up for a few days. All of this ignores one of Tunisia's best facets - its people. While the hassle of some tourist areas (particularly for women) shouldn't be underestimated, visitors are often startled - and exhilarated - by the hospitality which they're shown when away from the major resorts. Few independent travellers leave Tunisia without having been invited, quite spontaneously, to stay with a family. Even during the 1991 Gulf War, when the government did not support the US and allied forces, and there was a certain amount of anti-Western rhetoric on the street, the slogans were usually transcended by Tunisians' extraordinary pleasure in meeting visitors. The politics of the wider world rarely hinder personal contact.

  • 著者:
  • 出版社: Rough Guides
  • 価格: 2168
  • 頁数: 608P
  • 発売日:
  • ISBN: 9781858288222
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