The International Writers Magazine
: Sunshine Break North Africa

Ann Dymond

A flight of two and a half hours takes travellers into year-round sunshine; 700 miles of sandy beaches; some of the best hotels in the world; simple or exotic food, mostly fresh, particularly the fish; low crime; friendly people; archaeological sites and museums like the Bardo, which holds the finest of Roman mosaics.

There are old and new markets and souks; golf at affordable prices, on courses with 100 year-old eucalyptus trees; together with the contrasts of sea, mountains, desert and woodlands.
In short, variety and spice together.

Tunis itself, which is the location of this particular break, is on the southern side of the Mediterranean and shares most of the advantages of cities on the north coast. With the good exchange rate of the pound to the dinar, it is possible to stay in a five star hotel in Tunis and enjoy the timeless Mediterranean art of living without suffering the pain of a depleted bank account. The Residence, for instance, is typical of a Moorish-Andalusian style palace that blends ancient and modern so effortlessly. There is also a marine spa, arranged in amongst Moorish pillars, evoking the spirit of ancient Rome and the Orient, using a warm indoor pool and sea water jet baths. Highly-trained staff can take a few years off the most sceptical participants by offering Thalassotherapy; hot seawater treatment, recommended for sufferers of rheumatism, arthritis and stress.

To find another perfect example of ancient and modern, side by side, there is no need to look further than the Villa Didon, overlooking the Punic port, and set on the hillside near the picturesque blue and white town of Sidi Bou Said. This hotel has only ten suites, some with boardroom facilities, internet connections, jacuzzis, air conditioning, satellite tv, and private balcony. Alain Ducasse, the famous French chef conceived the very up-to-date ‘Spoon’ restaurant, whose windows mirror the famous Carthage museum and remnants of the villas of ancient Rome that share a dividing wall with the hotel.

There is an excellent golf course built on an old Carthaginian site which has a useful holiday par of 66, with fountains and restaurant overlooking a magnificent lake. With no membership necessary and most rounds costing no more than £25, golf is a popular alternative to sightseeing. A Carthagland theme park caters for those with a mental or physical age of twelve and under, the Sadika factory, just round the corner from the Residence hotel, gives a glimpse into another tradition that is alive and well, that of glass craft, and the Bardo museum houses the world’s largest display of Roman mosaics. A new Medina Mediterranea has been built in Hammammet, only half an hour away from Tunis itself, built on ancient lines and offering cyber cafes, modern casinos and eighteen restaurants. Shopaholics will love the carpets, ceramics, leather goods and jewels and just as in the old souks, the craftsmen demonstrate their skills.
This laid-back Muslim country, composed of French, Arabic and English speakers, is a perfect weekend break for anyone.

© Ann Dymond Oct 2005

{cd available for Residence Hotel
{dvd available for Hotel Didon}
FACT BOX for Tunisian Tourist Office.
Telephone 0207224 5561.
Address: 77a Wigmore Street, London W1U 1QF

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