The best way to visit the souks is to wander about aimlessly, follow the whirlwind of life, and be guided by your senses: soft wool, hot cups of tea, scents of aromas and brine in the spice souk, smell of kebabs and honey pastry, people's murmur, deafening tool sounds from all over the place. To loose oneself in the labyrinth of alleys, lanes, vaults, and dead ends, is to share the fascinating authenticity of a jealously preserved world. Here no one knows where the pleasure of the mind ends and where the pleasure of the senses starts.
To master a craft is to know its secrets to become a true artisan living on dexterity.
Tunisian handicrafts are not restricted to the souks. They can be practiced in a street corner or on one's home doorstep. From linen, cotton, or silk weavings, to sculptured, turned, chiseled or painted wood, in addition to leatherwear, the most sumptuous carpets, jewels harmoniously mixing western and eastern styles, and chiseled and engraved silverware, one can affirm that Tunisia is the country of handicrafts.
Sousse, the 'Pearl of the Sahel' and Tunisia's third-largest city, is very old. Founded by the Phoenicians, Hadrumete quickly reached the third position among Punic towns, after Carthage and Utique. During the Roman era, it was for some time the capital of Byzacene, a Roman province made of the Sahel and Central Tunisia. At the beginning of the Arab conquest, it was the port of Kairouan. Today Sousse is the capital of the Tunisian Sahel and a very active industrial centre, comprising textile, mechanical and electrical industries, and construction materials. It is one of the country's most important tourist resorts.
Situated close to Hammamet is Nabeul, the region's second-largest tourist resort. Here too, the beaches are beautiful and large. However, ancient Neapolis has another attraction: it is one of the main centres of a lively and diversified handicraft whose most important branches are unquestionably pottery and ceramics. Its original name, Neapolis, is the country's second most ancient famous name after Carthage. Since antiquity, a Jewish community has made its home here.
The remains of antique Neapolis were unearthed: large Roman dwellings, a handicraft complex that prepared salted vegetables, remains of streets etc.
Hammamet, a most attractive tourist resort with first-class hotels, night-clubs, bars and restaurant lies at the meeting-place of sea and sky, with its immense white sandy beaches, blue skies, sunshine, palm trees, orchards fragrant with orange, bergamot and bigaradier, jasmine flowers and orange trees.
The new resort of Yasmine-Hammamet, destined to become the gem of Tunisian tourism, has just been developed in Hammamet-Sud.
Yasmine-Hammamet is the newly-integrated tourist resort with first-class hotels, bungalows and villas, giving an overall capacity of 25,000 beds. A medina with an attraction park and recreation centres is built in line with ancient medinas. The resort has a beautiful 700-berth marina. There are two golf courses in the Hammamet area. Some of the hotels are equipped with thalassotherapy centres.
One of Tunisia's most modern tourist resorts and a particularly active fishing harbour, Mahdia dominates the Cap Afrique, a narrow isthmus-linked peninsula.
The Calife Obaid Allah el Mahdi, head of the Fatimide Muslim Shiite sect founded Mahdia as a capital in 916. It did not remain a capital for long. In 948, the third Fatimide Caliphate decided to take his government to Sabra, a new town near Kairouan. A stronghold valued for the quality of its security, Mahdia was coveted by many conquerors. For centuries, it witnessed a particularly disturbed history. It was occupied by the Normans of Sicily, and attacked by the Genoese, the French, the Knights of Malta, the Spanish and the Turks. The Turkish administration contributed to increasing the local population: Anatolians, Albanians, Greeks, Levantines and Andalusians mingled with the locals. As from 1870, the Sicilians came to fish sardines and taught the local population lamplight fishing, for which Mahdia is now the most important centre...
Monastir, a major seaside resort, is located in the southern end of the Gulf of Hammamet. Its tourist development is due to a host of advantages offered by the city and the region.
Monastir is ancient Punic Rous Penna, which the Romans transformed into Ruspina. It was used as a support base in Caesar's African campaign, and was protected by three enclosures the traces of which are still visible. Following the Arab conquest, a ribat- a fortified monastery for priest-warriors - was built here, as was the case in Sousse and elsewhere. Finally, the Turks turned it once more into a military stronghold.