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By far the largest city in Tunisia, Tunis is the capital and has been for over 800 years, although the medina has existed for far longer than that. The French decided they'd take charge in the late 19th century, and laid out the Ville Nouvelle. Tunisia gained independence from France in 1956 under the new leadership of Habib Bourgiba, and now under president Ben Ali the country is one of the most liberal and progressive in the Arab world.

I was in Tunisia for a week during offshore leave, and as I'd been looking for somewhere random to go to burn some air miles, it was just me for this last minute trip. It turned into a real adventure, there's so much to see in this compact country, I'd go back in a second. It also helped that I was there in the height of summer, so although it was ridiculously hot it was also off season and there was no problem finding accommodation anywhere I just rocked up to.

Habib Bourgiba

The highly French-influenced Avenue Habib Bourgiba, every city in Tunisia has one in honour of their leader who took them to independence. It felt very European.

Just in case you were feeling too secure though, you're boldly reminded which continent you're on by the fancy but very 1970s Hotel Africa.

Hotel Africa


The division between old and new; the Porte de France gateway to the Tunis medina, where things start to get more interesting!

Inside the medina it was the usual narrow alleys and overflowing shops, but the dress of the people wandering around was distinctly western in style.



Zifouna Mosque forms the centrepiece of the Tunis medina.

Tiled archways on top of a carpet shop near to the Zifouna mosque.



The Tunis Opera House sits on Avenue Habib Bourgiba, and is a grand edifice indeed.

Slightly worn looking but nonetheless French in style, buildings of the Ville Nouvelle.

Parisian style

Big Ben Ali

Further out towards the sea, stands this 1960s style clock. Big Ben Ali? The building behind looks somewhat brutalist in style.

There is a good modern tram system operating in Tunis these days, which takes you all the way from the main railway station to the light rail by Tunis Bay, for further travel to Carthage.


Habib Bourgiba

Looking west along Avenue Habib Bourgiba, the centrepiece of Tunis.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2008