Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Getting Around Safely in Tunisia in the Wake of the Arab Spring

Tunisia is often disregarded as a fun holiday destination because of the shadow cast by the events of the Arab Spring. Vacationers were understandably discouraged from visiting the country between 2010-2012 due to the flood of civil wars, protests, riots and demonstrations that the country was submerged in during this time. Since the Tunisian Revolution, the President has stepped down and the victims and martyrs of the protest have been described as heroes of a new Middle Eastern revolution. Currently, the political storm has subsided to reveal the beautiful and tranquil nature of Tunisia once more, with its stunning landscape of the Sahara desert, extensive coastline and striking blue skies in addition to a rich cultural heritage. There is plenty to do and see in this vibrant country, so ignore the naysayers and find out for yourself all that Tunisia has to offer!

                                                     Port El Kantaoui Wiki Commons

 The safest parts of Tunisia to explore are hosted in the northern part of the country, from the Tunis region to Tozeur, and you can find a map clearly detailing which areas are best here. Basically, you will want to avoid most of the borders with Algeria and Libya, as these regions are still facing conflict. Unless a particular place really takes your fancy then it is convenient just to travel along the Tunisian coastline, which is not only safe but also boasts gorgeous beaches and sea views. For example, Port El-Kantaoui is one of the foremost hotspots in Tunisia, with prize-winning golf courses and plenty of commercial shopping centres in addition to the stunning port itself. There is a vast array of popular and family-friendly water activities to take part in, such as cruises, parasailing, skiing and fishing, provided by experienced instructors. There is a great list of safe and high quality 3-5* hotels here as well to add to your comfort and relaxation. You can discover more about what Port El-Kantaoui offers and read some reviews here.

As Tunisia’s capital, Tunis is also an unmissable and very safe place to visit. It is the country’s biggest city, with over 650,000 residents. It is also host to all of the global embassies, including the British Embassy which can be found along rue de la Windermere, open morning to afternoon every weekday. In the unlikely instance that you encounter any troubles on your travels, it is convenient to travel here. The cosmopolitan city is home to fantastic architecture, with a lovely mix of colonial-era structures in the modern part of the town in contrast to the older buildings set within the medina. The capital has been experiencing a prosperous economy recently, as it truly is the top place to splash the cash! The grand Avenue Habib Bourguiba is akin to Paris’ Champs-Élysées. The site also has a wonderful range of cultural pastimes to enjoy, and you can spend many hours at reputable theatres, musical institutions and museums. The suburb of Carthage lies close to Tunis, and is again a lovely and safe place to reside in. Every year it hosts an internationally-recognised arts festival, with inspiring performances set in a beautiful old amphitheatre that is pretty alike Rome’s magnificent colosseum. In fact, this entire region puts on lots of incredible festivals around the summer months - you can have a look at some of them here. Follow the rest of the crowd and attend one for yourself!

                                      Tunis at night, with a view of the Municipal Theatre

If rolling sands and beachy shores are still more your thing, then fear not because there is a wealth of safe places in Tunisia to dip your toes in amongst the golden grains. It is probably sensible to stay away from the Sahara area at the moment as this is too close to Algeria, however you can still enjoy camel-riding and similar experiences in other parts of the country. The island of Djerba, just off from the coast of Tunisia is such a place. It is an idyllic locale with quiet, clean beaches and the charming old town of ‘Houmt Souk’. The place has a zen-like feel, with whitewash houses and some cute recreational shops and cafés. It is a far cry from any of the political upheaval going on in Algeria or Libya, and you can lay back and daydream to your heart’s content! Tunisia has many of these peaceful paradises, such as the Sidi Bou Said village which sits on a clifftop, just a little distance away from the beach. The atmospheric village has magnificent picturesque views out into the dazzling blue sea, which is mimicked in the blue features of the architecture. It is a haven for artists and creative types, and you can see why here.

                                                Camels along Djerba Beach

The New York Times describes Tunisia as being ‘known for its golden beaches, sunny weather and affordable luxuries’, and it is important that in light of the all the political distress it has faced, it be remembered as such. Tunisia on the most part is a sublime setting for holidaymakers; it is both culturally welcoming and secure. The events of the Arab Spring were an unfortunate instance for Tunisia’s tourism, but it should not detract from the undeniable beauty of the country and all that it has to offer. It is not surprising that 6-7 million travellers still visit Tunisia each year, and with its fantastic list of activities to dive into and its picturesque visions across the landscape, Tunisia is truly a grand destination to visit.

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