The Aziza Hotel, Tunisia
When you touch down on Tunisian soil, the first thing that hits you is the diverse mixture of cultures. A French and Arabic speaking country, perched at the top of Africa, Tunisia is a world of delights for the keen traveller. At just two-and-a-half hours away from London, it’s easily accessible. But when you arrive, you begin to feel you’ve ventured a lot further away from home. On our first night we stayed at the Regency Hotel in Gammarth – a beach resort formed by a long stretch of land, surrounded by a lake and the ocean. The rooms were very comfortable and there was a great variety of food. And on taking a walk the following morning, I stumbled upon a camel on the beautiful long and sandy beach, which in the summer I imagine to be packed with sunseekers. Our trip then took us on to the fairly quiet village of Sidi Bou Said. Full of little cafes, markets and gift shops, it’s a lovely little village with a lovely view of the nearby coastline. However, be careful of street-sellers, who cornered us and drew henna tattoos on my right hand. And do be prepared to barter – it’s all part of the fun and more often than not you can halve the original price and return home with a bargain. Next, we proceeded to Hammamet, a fairly large resort on the coast with another beautiful long and sandy beach and a stunning harbour on the south side. The Spanish fort on the edge of the beach gives a nice backdrop, and a climb to the top gives magnificent views across the coast. Our second night in Tunisia took us to the Aziza Hotel. With luxurious rooms, it had a fantastic view of the beach and was very quiet. We then proceeded to visit the southern side of Hammamet, where a selection of cafes, bars and restaurants lined the harbour. From there it was on to Sousse. And it was here that I began to notice the Arabic side of Tunisia, with many women dressed in beautiful headscarves. And it was noticeable when I went into a shop and was spoken to in Arabic, instead of French. And whilst standing at the top of a fort in the town, I heard the call to prayer which I have always found to be a very moving experience. From here, we went to the harbour at Sousse, an area full of shops, bars and restaurants, often with fresh seafood, where we tasted some Tunisian delicacies for lunch. In Sousse we stayed at the luxurious Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa. Of the three hotels we stayed in, this one had the most relaxed feel. It was here that I was given the opportunity to sample thalassotherapy – a form of therapy using seawater. After a swim in the pool I was treated to a relaxing massage in the spa centre. The food at the hotel was perfect – a good variety of Tunisian specialities. I don’t know what I expected from the food in Tunisia but they have some delicious seafood dishes. But my favourite food discovery was harissa – a peppery, spicy paste served with bread and olive oil before a meal. I proudly returned to the UK with a jar of it. Tunisia pleasantly surprised me. Tourism in the country did suffer following the uprising early last year. But it’s a perfectly safe place to go now. A true mixture of the Mediterranean, the African and the Arab worlds. Tunisia was a joy to visit and somewhere I definitely aim to return to in the future.