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Monastir - A travel report by sgsdgsdgs
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Monastir,  Tunisia - flag Tunisia -  Monastir
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kirikou's travel reports

North African tourist trap

  8 votes
Page: 1 2
Brought my two little sisters to Monastir on a cheap package deal in May last year. Town's quite touristy, but interesting enough for a week that was mainly meant to a cheap beach get away anyhow.

Monastir travelogue picture
Monastir is a relatively small town, situated on Tunisia's northern coast - best known as the birth place of Tunisia's former president, Habib Bourgiba. It receives heaps of charter tourists from all over northern Europe, and has very much adjusted to this. It's medina is full of people touting ceramics and other typical and less typical souvenirs to foreigners, and the beaches filled up with charter hotels. It's pretty much what you'd expect from a charter trip, and yet it is possible to get away from it all and experience at least a fragment of real Tunisia if you try hard enough.

Favourite spots:
Monastir travelogue picture
The ocean is beautiful here, and hours could easily be spent just watching it. Strolling the streets is quite enjoyable - even though touts can be a little annoying at times.

On our little efficiency outing through the country, we also passed through the Chott el-Djerid, a giant salt lake close to the Algerian border, absolutely beautiful.

Also enjoyed a tour through an oasis, and the visit to the Kairouan mosque.

What's really great:
Monastir travelogue picture
We did a very touristy, very efficient two day trip of some major sights in Tunisia. Being pushed around to see as many sights as possible in as short time as possible, all done in a somewhat cattlelike manner, does of course have it's disadvantages - but the short time considered it actually wasn't all that bad. Got a quick look at the old colosseum in El Djem, which is identical to Rome's colosseum, just smaller and better preserved, quite fascinating. Then on to Matmata, where people traditionally live in dug out caves in the ground - very few actually do this anymore, but some yes, and these are being paid by charter companies to let in tour groups to basically stare at how they live their daily life - embarrassingly intruding, slightly interesting, pretty landscape. Further south we arrived Douz, which is called the gateway to Sahara - did a short camel ride just to have it done, was quite fun - and sunset over the Sahara is absolutely beautiful.

Monastir travelogue picture
The town's ribat, an old fortress facing the harbor area, is beautiful - most famous for being used during the tapings of Life of Brian.
The town's mosque, and the mausoleum where Habib Bourgiba is kept, are both beautiful. Foreigners entering the mosque is not appreciated. And the medina is to be experienced, even though it's gone all touristy - lots of pretty ceramics and blankets in between the stuffed toy camels and imported sarongs, although probably not the place to go for authentic wares - haggling of course expected. And the seashore is neat, miles of beautiful beach and green ocean.

Monastir travelogue picture
Stayed at Monastir Cap Marina Appartments, very good for the price we paid (unspecified charter), seems going three people together is a good idea, as you then tend to get appartments instead of hotel rooms. Most of the accommodation in town is booked up by charter companies, and may well turn out very expensive if doing it on your own. The exception is the backpackers hostel Les Palmiers.

The clubs we saw were all small hotel connected discos with heaps of vulture like teenagers smiling at the blond little tourists. Nothing to recommend.

Monastir travelogue picture
It's a mainly muslim country, although not as strict as others, and so places serving alcohol will mainly be restaurants/bars in the touristy area by the harbor. Plenty of decent places, none that stood out.

Again, touristy area full of restaurants. Most quite alike, serving the same variety of pizza, pasta, steaks and seafood - the seafood tasted great by the way. If you stroll a bit away from the harbor/medina area, there are some few local restaurants around. And fresh bread and fruits are sold right outside the medina, all very good.

Other recommendations:
Monastir travelogue picture
The official languge is Arabic, but French also mostly understood - and you do get by without either, as the tourist influx has made people learn bits and phrases of anything from English to German to Swedish to Italian. Currency is the dinar, more or less 1 dinar to the US dollar. Several banks and ATMs. Oh, and for those of us who don't get the most fancy hotels - you can easily wonder in anywhere, look like you belong and get access to a swimming pool =)

Published on Thursday June 24th, 2004

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Fri, Jun 25 2004 - 11:20 PM rating by marianne

Where did you stand when you took this picture from El Jem? (or isn't it El Jem?)

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