Enjoying La Marsa and Tunis one more time

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I’ve had the most amazing two weeks, wherein my dear friend Ali visited my home in Tunisia! He gave me the chance to say so long to this country I’ve come to love, with a proper send-off – visiting some places I know and many, many places I don’t. I think it’s going to take up five blog posts to get all these great pictures out.

La Marsa, Tunisia

La Marsa is my neighborhood – both before and after the fire. It’s one of a few “northern suburbs” of the capital, and La Marsa sits on the Mediterranean sea. Dedicated readers of this blog will already know all this… but just in case you’re new, please allow me to start with a few pics of the marvelous views.

Carthage

Carthage – another “northern suburb” but the only one important enough to figure in the name of the Tunis airport. It is home to massive sites of Roman ruins and those from even earlier periods. Some 60% of the homes in Carthage (and it is a wealthy suburb) sit on more ruins – which is quite a shocker. Carthage is a treasure trove that never fails to surprise.

In Carthage, you’ll find the Antonin Baths, at which Roman people would arrive, straight from the boat, for a relaxing spin through hot and cold pools, exercise rooms, and shared bathroom facilities. Oh, those wacky Romans!

Wikipedia lays out the very well-preserved baths like this:

Our guide pointed out the features from on high, so we could see where each of these water and exercise features sat within the compound.

Carthage is also home to the Punic Port, now a sleepy water feature, but which was once the naval base and staging area for the most important sea-based wars of the age. The (Wikipedia and History Herald) photos below compare what the port likely looked like in Hannibal’s time, versus how it looks today.

The Medina in Tunis

I’ve written about the crazy medina in downtown Tunis before, and shown loads of pictures. Here are some from our trip to share it with Ali. The rooftops have these incredible mosaics just sitting out under the sun, where you can have a tea or a coca cola and look out over the city.

Also while downtown, we visited the Fondouk el Attarine, a must-visit restaurant and shopping gallery, for some amazing couscous, brik, and other Tunisian favorites. I have a FANTASTIC picture of Ali taking a big bite of food but he won’t let me use it (for good reason, actually – I would not want to be pictured that way either!) The restaurant is a perfect way to try out a bunch of different traditional favorites – in a beautiful courtyard setting, (thankfully) air conditioned, and then shop for some of the finest Tunisian handicrafts on two floors around the dining area.

Beautiful views and great company

Even as we prepared to drive off around the country and see wonders new and old, we made plenty of time for hanging out with friends in and around La Marsa. That included Bobar, and meeting my dear Lisa and The Little Man, Spud:

Also, Sidi Dhrif, beside the Carthage museum and with a stunning view over the Punic Port and surroundings, with an absolutely hellacious moonrise:

That will do for today. This post covers Ali’s first couple of days in Tunisia. I will post again soon on our trip to the northwest.

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