between the lands

Jessica and Andrew’s travel journal

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Planet Tunisia0

Posted by Andrew in ALGERIA, TUNISIA (July 6, 2007 at 3:41 pm)

We finally tore ourselves away from Algeria. It’s debatable whether we overstayed our visa, but like everyone else there, all the police were so friendly, they didn’t mind at all. Thanks again to all of our new friends, including Mohammed and his family, who kindly spent the day with us in Cherchell.
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Had to make a stopover in Kabylie, where the indigenous African berbers are still reppin their language, written and spoken—Azoul!!
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JESSICA SEZ: The rumors are true, Algeria really is the unspoiled Maghreb. It’s got ‘4 seasons’ (desert, ice-capped mnts, beaches, plains), spectacular scenery, a thorough bus network to get around at good rates, and a network of real youth hostels (heavily used by Algerian youth athletic teams). Unlike Morocco and Tunisia, no one will follow you around trying to force you to buy something – anything! You can let your eyes stray onto an item in a souk without conjuring an ingratiating, patronizing hard-sell. You can ask for directions from a stranger who will not ask for a tip, and might even tell you to hop in his car for a ride. The tourist is still such an unusual sight, that folks see YOU – not a walking wallet – and that allowed us to see THEM as well.
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I was able to talk to Algerians more freely than anywhere else in northern Africa, with no strings and no ulterior motives. And they were very happy to discuss and share with us. What a relief it was. I hope to go back, and I hope they can keep that character of openness in the future…
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On To Tunisia—land of some really unique stuff. While I do have much love for Algeria; and agree with what Jessica sez above; Ill point out that while Morocco is quite tough in terms of harrassment of foreigners; Tunisia is alot more mow key except along the well beaten path

First we hung out in El Kef (or Le Kef as the French prefer).
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Nearby we took a soak in some actual Roman baths!!! No, not ruins of baths; these thermal baths, which are out in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a difficult road, have been in continuous operation for over 1,800 years. It was so cool to be here, we didn’t even mind than it was 117 degrees outside that day.
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More ruins of course, including Bulla Regia, where it was so hot, the romans decided to build their homes underground.
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On to El Haouaria, where we were 1 week late for the annual falconry festival.
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Oh well, la prochaine fois…
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We got to swim in a sea water filled pool, so close to Europe, we could almost see Sicily.
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Next, down to Kairouan, the 4th most holy city in Islam (Mecca, Medina and Jeruselum are the first three).
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JESSICA SEZ:They told us 7 visits here equals one trip to Mecca.
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ANDREW RETURNZ: Only a short hop to El Jem, the biggest coliseum we’ve seen yet—it used to hold 30,000 people.
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Kariouen is also a carpet makers center.
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Its been a while for you movie lovers, so heres a North Africa themed movie I’ve made, featuring clips from Prayer time in Fez, the carpet auction in Kariouen, whirling dervishes dancing in Egypt, and some other assorted stuff. ***one problem, because of government censorship of the internet here in Tunisia, the service is so slow I cant upload this movie. So ill post it when we get to another country with better service. Sorry…***
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Then to the Island of Djerba, which still has a small Jewish community, and a synagogue which supposedly holds one of the oldest torahs in the world. There’s a big Jewish pilgrimage here during Passover.
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We stayed in a funduq, old multi-roomed boarding houses for the traveling merchants;
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…and we swam in the warmest sea yet on this trip…
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And of course, the ubiqutous Tunisia Jasmine flowers–all the guys are wearing them!!(fo real)
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Now I write this post from the town of Matmata. We are staying in a hotel that’s a network of underground caves.
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It was used for Luke Skywalkers home in Star Wars, and for the cantina where Han Solo bucked down Greedo. No joke!
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Most people now live above ground here, but there are still lots of troglodyte dwellings. If nothing else, it keeps cool during the day…

Well be in Tunisia a few more days, and then were giving Libya one last shot—we’d like to travel over land back to Egypt. If they still don’t let us in, well have to hop over to Cairo (on an expensive airplane—ugh!) and then head east. See ya’ll in Tripoli, en sha’allah…
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