The Spirit of Tunis

Fezes for Sale in the Tunis Medina
Fezes for Sale in the Tunis Medina

There is no city quite like Tunis. It blends east and west, Europe and Africa, ancient and modern. It has its old souks and its newly-arrived internet cafés, its ancient ruins and the modern palaces of its 5-star hotels, it has the call of the muezzin from its minarets and the roar of its soccer fans from the football stadium.

Nowhere is the mix as wonderfully visible as in the medina, the ancient walled town from which the modern city grew. Immerse yourself in its labyrinth without worrying about getting lost. Here are the age-old spice stalls and the latest in t-shirts. Here are the traders who can speak no language other than Arabic, and alongside them the cheeky shopkeepers who can make tourists laugh in several different languages.

Young people rush past clutching mobile phones, and then head into one of the centuries-old cafés to gossip and smoke the hookah pipe. The chatter of conversation mixes with the smell of coffee and mint tea, the smoke-stained walls look down on the blue denim jeans and red felt fezes alike.

Modern marketing gurus would enter the medina like lambs to the slaughter when confronted by the Tunis carpet touts. Even the smartest traveller can find themselves entering a carpet shop when they thought they were going to a museum, a café, an exhibition or just to look at a view. No Hollywood actor could do a more convincing display of being affronted than the medina shopkeeper when you suggest that his price is too high. Don’t be intimidated or annoyed by any of it, it is all part of the exuberant spirit of Tunis.