26 December 2009
I recently returned from a pre-Christmas break in Tunisia. I stayed in the coastal city of Sousse, but also took a 2-day trip to southern Tunisia. The barren landscapes – terraced, rocky and flat – are spectacular and often otherworldly (hardly surprising that they were chosen as the backdrop for various scenes in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back).
The desert itself – as we discovered on our one hour camel ride into the Sahara – has a surreal tranquillity. In terms of history, El Jem’s coliseum is impressive, dating back to the 3rd century and seating 30,000 (second only to Rome’s 45,000). Culturally, the troglodyte cave dwellings are fascinating and aesthetically beautiful, capturing a simple purity not often seen anymore. The salt-pan flats, where we watched a rain-drizzled sunrise, are breathtaking in their vast empty white expanse.