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Middle East/North Africa series: Tunisia

By February 1, 2014 No Comments

Tunisia: Why you should go

Home of the Arab Spring, the Jasmine Revolution sparked protests that would cause regimes and governments to topple across the Middle East and North Africa.  That was 17 December, 2010.  On 26 January a new constitution was adopted in Tunisia; presidential elections have not yet been scheduled and many unknowns still exist; however, Tunisia seems to be on the right track to stability.

Center map

Is it safe?  A “state of emergency” declared by the government of Tunisia remains in effect (as of 28 January, 2014) and the FCO advises against all but essential travel to much of the south as well as the western borders of the country.  There’s also a potential for demonstrations and riots in Tunis.  All things being equal… Robert Young Pelton, author of World’s Most Dangerous Places doesn’t even rank Tunisia on his list of dangerous places.

Not on your bucket list?  Why you should go to Tunisia:

  • The Medina:  Medinas always seem to top the list of places to see in a Middle Eastern or North African city.  While Tunis does have one, Tunisia is much more than a medina.
  • History: You want history? Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Ottoman and other empires have left their cultural mark here
    • Carthage: 9th Century BC Phoenician/Cypriot trade city and UNESCO site
    • El Djem:  2 hours south of Tunis – holds some of the most impressive roman ruins in North Africa
    • Sidi Bou Said – artsy, white and blue walled town just outside of Tunis.
    • Dougga –1.5 hours west of Tunis lies Dougga; Roman ruins and UNESCO world heritage site. Highly ranked on TripAdvisor
  • Culture: Bardo Museum – Oldest and most important museums in Tunisia. Pre-Roman to Arab.
  • Unique experiences:
    • Mediterranean beaches – nuff said.
    • Saharan deserts – camp out in the desert, ride a camel, impress your friends
    • Matmata: Troglodyte and Berber villages – also home to Luke Skywalker’s childhood digs
    • Mountain oases:
      • Chebika * it is currently not safe to travel here per FCO
      • Tamerza * it is currently not safe to travel here per FCO

       Why you should be careful:

      Tunisia-4102 - Walls and Area

      Douar el Hafai in Tozeur Flickr via Dennis Jarvis

      You’ve been warned – still going nonetheless?  I like your style.

      • Let State know you’ll be in country, enroll in STEP to make it easier for them to contact you should there be an emergency.
      • Take U.S. Embassy or UK Embassy contact info
      • Let your friends and family in on your travel plans. TripIt offers a great app.
      • Follow alerts via the State Dept Twitter feed
      • Travel insurance: In case of emergency, trip cancellation or lost luggage.  I get this before each trip for the concierge service alone.  I’ve had great success with TravelGuard, but there are others out there.

      Get out and enjoy the new stability; be aware of theareas to avoid and use your best judgment; blend in and avoid being a target if you decide to visit Tunisia.

      Have you been recently? How was it?

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