Wednesday 5th October 2011 Weather:-28degrees
La Goullette, Tunisia
Tunisia's history dates back over some 3,000 years. The country has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Turks, Spanish and French. During the 12th to 16th centuries, Tunis was considered one of the most important and wealthiest cities in the Arab world. It finally gained independence from France in 1956. Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, actually consists of three cities: the modern Capital City of the Tunisian Republic, with its wide streets, skyscrapers and busy sidewalk cafes; the Arabic Medina (Old Town) from the Middle Ages, an exciting labyrinth laden with secrets, narrow alleyways, small shops, huge mosques and palaces and finally Carthage, the ancient Phoenician - Roman city, which lies 18 km from the city.
We were quiet excited about this tour as it was promising to be something different we were going to see the Bardo Museum (we had been warned that part of that was closed for restoration), View the Baths of Antonius and the Carthage Museum and we were going to visit the charming fishing village of Sidi Bou Said. All was well until we boarded the bus we had a complement of half English and half Italian tourists on board but Herman and I were the luckiest as we had sat ourselves on the back seat of the bus. The tourist guide was of the upper middle age variety—a man who has been boss in his kingdom and with a sharp clipped and loud (over the microphone) voice. He started to lecture his inmates (us) and soon received complaints from our fellow travellers to tone down the sound level but the complainers were admonished because we in the back of the bus had to hear also—I guarantee the bus behind us would not have needed any commentary for the sound in our bus would have carried over. A 15 minute barrage in the carpark of the Bardo Museum made some of the Italians start swearing and walk off, with me behind them with the sounds of “Madam, come back here” following me. Finally we were allowed to go into the ground floor of the museum and into a room with about 16 marble heads of former rulers around the perimeter, each ruler’s life history was recounted in detail in both Italian and English—by this time our fellow English travellers were ropeable—people were told “stand here and listen” as if they were primary school children of years gone by, even teachers of this age would not talk to their students in that manner. Herman and I were lucky because we slipped up to the 2nd floor where we stood transfixed by the beauty of the intricate mosaics up there. We were beckoned by one of the guards who was guarding the closed off part of the museum and before we knew it we were slipped into the out of bounds area where our eyes nearly popped out of our heads with the beautiful artistry around us—there was too much to describe here so you can only see a little of it on our photos, I can only add that it made this tour worthwhile. I have to add that our absence was noticed by our ‘official guide’ because later on in the tour I was confronted by “where were you earlier, I noticed that you were missing” I was sorely tempted to show him our photos because we saw things that the others missed out on but if I had done that I may have gotten our saviour into trouble.
Back on the bus on our way to Carthage the loud ramble went on and the Italian lot were told “Keep Quiet, I am talking” twice by our guide—it was degenerating into a comedy for if you could not laugh at it fistie--cuffs would have broken out’ by this time some of the English people in front of us had found earplugs in the bottom of their backs and were making good use of them. Most people were worried as to the time the guide took over trivial things—our boat had docked late and there was a ‘gala’ (dress up night) starting at 7:30pm. On the original schedule we were supposed to get back on board at 7:15 but at the rate our guide was going we were going to miss the boat.
When we first landed we were told “do not buy anything from any of the people who approach you for I will take you to a market at the end of our tour in the fishing village of Sidi Bou Said” although when visiting Carthage people were ordered (by the guide) into a souvenir shop wether they wanted to go or not—one of the British ladies was told “stand here and do not move” and much to my horror she complied. The state of affairs degenerated when we arrived at the fishing village and we were told “we will stop here for an hour and you can go shopping in the bazaar”. That ‘hour’ would have taken us past the departure date of our boat but on top of that we still had a twenty minute bus ride back to the ship the result was that all except one young couple refused to get off the bus and the chant of “get us back to the boat” arose, the stand-off lasted about 30 minute with the tour guide ringing for reinforcements to get us to comply but thank goodness sanity prevailed and finally we were driven back to the ship and as we had to pass the ‘tour desk’ on our way back to the cabin I was able to warn them about the headache that awaited them this morning.