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Postcard from Tunisia - The Tunis Medina

museum in the Tunis Medina

The entrance to the Musee des Arts et Traditions Populaires, follow the cat.

Your visit . . to Tunis will not be complete without a trip through the medina - the old centre of the city.

Here you will find many winding covered lanes where it's possible to loose your sense of direction (perhaps never to be seen again) but also to find many little treasures (I'd swap a sense of direction for a treasure any day!).

As we wander down an alley, a local joins us and informs us that there is a special exhibition on and it closes in one hour but he will take us there. (We have been in Egypt, brother, we know all these stories). We decide to go along and he guides us through lanes, around corners, deeper into the medina.

Eventually (wouldn't you know it) we arrive at the carpet shop. We are ushered past the four girls who put on a show of being busy making carpets and up to the roof to look at the view over the medina. There is not much to see except other carpet shop rooves with other people looking at the view!

Then back to the exhibition (that is closing in one hour) and we wander around the carpets for a while getting an idea of style and price and then eventually tell the poor man that we really didn't want to buy a carpet today but we may call back later.

Smart tipDon't restrict your bargain hunting to the streets of the medina. Upstairs at 47 Avenue Habib Bourguiba (the main street of Tunis) you will find Mains de Femmes, a women's co-operative that sells artifacts made by village women. Unlike some other retailers, most of the price you pay will go back to the source. They have some beautiful, well-made, competitively priced items for sale and there is no buying pressure. Recommended.

Back to the streets of the medina and Richard's innate sense of direction (not lost yet) guides us back to our starting point for a well-earned coffee and rest. On the way back we check out the gold bangles but decide that the workmanship was a little rough for the price being asked. There are many trades being carried on in the souk area of the medina, not the least of which is the hat maker. Hats are important to Tunisian man.

Refreshed after our coffee, we dive back into the medina to look at the sights. We discover the Musee des Arts et Traditions Populaires and the green domed mausoleum built by Ali Pasha II in the midth 18th century. The musee is a bit of a dingy affair, but worth a visit if you are interested in the traditions of daily life. The mausoleum is the resting place of the Husaynids, and is crammed full of graves. We walk on to the main mosque and the government offices. By this time we are medina experts and we stroll up and down the alleyways looking for interesting sights. I discover the fifteen brothers that I didn't know I had and get offered 1000 camels for Jen (they didn't understand Jen's quip that they should offer 1000 cameras and they would have a chance).

An exhausting day is completed at our local restaurant with a meal washed down by water (this one follows the Islamic tradition and does not serve alcohol). Our friendly waiter rewards our loyalty of coming back a second night with a glass of traditional sweet tea at the end of the meal.

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