My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

The mountain oasis of Tamerza

 

By: Jameela Deen, founder of the blog Diary of a Serial Expat 

Children: Two boys aged 4.5 yrs and 3 yrs.

Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

Empty beaches and the entrance to the Souk in Hammamet

 

 

Why go?

In April 2012, we went to Tunisia for 2 weeks as part of a linguistic programme (organised by us from the UK). We were based in the North in Hammamet but we travelled everywhere all the way down to the doors of the desert, Douze. We stayed in a hotel that was perfect for families with 3 pools of different sizes and plenty of activities for children of all ages. Plus the hotel staff was fantastic and really made our stay delightful.

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

The adult pool at Nesrine Hotel, there are also paddling pools for kids

 

For my children and I it was also the first time travelling to my husband’s native country and from that first time, I fell in love with Tunisia. We returned 3 months later for a month long holiday and are now planning to build our house there.

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

The outdoor children’s area at Nesrine Hotel

 

Tunisia has got loads to offer, first of all a gorgeous weather all year round, very friendly and welcoming locals, a mix of European and Arab culture and a great variety of landscapes: from fine sand beaches (try the Island of Djerba) to the Sahara Desert, rock mountain oasis and salt lakes, palm tree groves and so so much more.

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

The staffed kids’ club at Nesrine Hotel

 

We couldn’t fit this into our schedule but next time I’ll book us an overnight stay in the desert. You can book a night in a desert camp and wait for sunset sitting on a sand dune. From what I’ve been told there is nothing like it and I can’t wait to try that.

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

Behind the old Madinah in Hammamet

 

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

Much of Sidi Bousaid, near the capital of Tunis, is painted in white and blue

 

The best part

It’s really hard to choose the best one, but I would say the surprise finding out Tunisia was more than just beaches and turquoise waters. Discovering the local crafts of ceramics was definitely interesting and the quad bike into the desert at sunset was quite something even though you end up covered in sand. The children enjoyed the sea obviously and my oldest son just loves camels and in Tunisia they are everywhere.

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

Tunisia wouldn’t be Tunisia without its camels!

 

While in the south, we booked a 4×4 ride up to Tamerza, the mountain oasis and with a guide we climbed up over the mountain, and down the other side to discover a hidden palm tree oasis with a small waterfall and a clear water stream. The view was simply unbelievable. On the way back we stopped to buy some dates from the local producers and ate a whole kilo in less than an hour!

Driving up north again along the Algerian border we stopped to admire an unexpected landscape. With high mountains in the background and salt lakes everywhere along the road, in the early morning hours, the sun played with the water it was spectacular.

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

The salt lakes in southern Tunisia, along the Algerian border

 

We also stopped to visit the city of Matmatah. It is now famous for being the set of one of the StarWars movie but more interestingly, it is a whole city of troglodyte dwellings – houses carved into the rock of the mountain. People live in those houses, it is their answer to the scorching temperatures of the south of Tunisia. I’ve read somewhere that Tunisia holds the record of the 2nd hottest temperature of all time in the whole world (1st being in the Death Valley in the US).

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

Tamerza, in the south of Tunisia

 

I could go on and on but the best part of Tunisia is… Tunisia itself. It is a very small country and you can easily tour the whole country in just a few days. With so many things to see (I didn’t mention historic Roman ruins in El Jem, the oldest mosque in Africa in Kerouan…) you’ll have enough memories to last you a lifetime.

Despite the recent revolution (in 2011) the country is stable and totally safe. People are just about the friendliest people I’ve ever met (honestly) and you and your children will feel totally at peace and relaxed. I’ve been there 3 times now and I just can’t wait to go back.

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

View over the palm tree grove oasis hidden by the mountains

 

 

Three things you should definitely do:

1. Camel ride in the desert with overnight stay in a desert camp

2. Friendly haggling in the Souk in the Madinah (the old city)

3. A day trip to Sidi Bousaid

 

My Family Adventure: A Taste of Tunisia

Pottery and ceramics. French-style cafes in the capital Tunis

 

Read more about Tunisia with kids on Jameela’s blog: Diary of a Serial Expat

 

 

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