A Little Bit of North Africa: Tunisia and Morocco with Gate1Travel
About this blog
Travels to Northern Africa. Tunisia with its abundance of Roman ruins, its variety of landscape and its beautiful towns and villages enraptured us. Morocco was definitely more cosmopolitan and with its Moorish and Andalusian and Berber architecture was a delight to photograph.
From Oct. 13 until Nov. 8 we we toured Tunisia and Morocco. The weather, except for the first 3 days in Tunisia when we had showers, was great, especially in Morocco. Autumn is definitely the time to travel to these wonderful countries. We began our tour in the Tunis area, visiting Carthage...which isn't much for ruins, the American War cemetery, and quaint, blue-and-white Sidi Bou Said which we visited both at the beginning and end of our stay in the country. We also ended up the trip back in Tunis where we spent two days on our own, getting lost using the trains, visiting the medina and getting lost there as well, and retracing some of our steps from the first days of our trip. The hotels we stayed in were first rate resort hotels (except for a wonderful businessman's hotel in the heart of the new town in Tunis) and the Tunisian food was delicious. The Roman Ruins, particularly in Dougga and Sbeitla were fantastic. The golden orange colors and extensive sites were really impressive. Along with these the fantastic mosaics from the Roman era, many still in place while others were in the Bardo museum or museums elsewhere we visited, were better than any we have encountered in the past. The amphitheater at El Djem, formally Thysdrus, was impressive. We traveled along the coastline and then south to the edges of the Sahara desert, where some of our fellow travelers took camel rides while we wandered the area. We traveled through the Chott El Jerid, a huge, largely dry, salt lake where eerie figures of salt where built by folks along the roadway. Here we also saw a desert fox, the fennec, a tiny, pale yellow, large-eared creature which was really cute and is also endangered. We visited synagogues and mosques (few of which we were allowed in to visit), a Berber cave-home built into the mountains, souks, medinas and you name it. Tunisia was really wonderful although, while it is a secular Muslim country, it is still outwardly very male dominated. We were also there for the re-election of the president (our guide informed us that the elections were fixed in his favor and that he would win by at least a 90% vote!)
From Tunisia we flew on to Casablanca, Morocco where we met up with our new group. Food and hotels did not live up to Tunisia but we still were comfortable here. Apparently there is not much to see in Casablanca except for the Royal Palace (which is beautiful), and the Hassan II mosque, the largest and most spectacular, of Morocco. We headed north to Rabat, Fes, Meknes, Erfoud, Ouarzazate (where Hillary was visiting at the time), and Marrakesh. Fes and Marrakesh were probably our favorite cities. The old medina of Fes, with over 13,000 alleyways, was intriguing. We didn't get lost here because we opted on a guided tour (thank God!). One of my favorite sites was visiting the tannery although the smells were not pleasant. Marrakesh was fun getting lost in. The Djemaa El Fna, or square outside the medina souks, was busy, busy, busy. Its flute music, snake charmers, henna painters, food stands, and labyrinthine alleyways make it a fascinating place as one where you can easily get lost (as we did for a short time). There is not much in Morocco as far as Roman Ruins are concerned (we visited Volubulis but it didn't stand comparison to any of the sites in Tunisia) but the color of the countryside more than made up for this. One of our favorite side trips was Ait Ben Haddou, an ancient fortified city along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. It was quite picturesque sitting atop a hill with its golden colors.
Another great trip! We know we are so lucky.