When we’re visiting a new place, one of the first things Mike and I do is check Nomad Mania. Launched in 2012, the website divides the world into 1281 regions and lists important and interesting things to experience in each area, including historical sites, museums, festivals, and curiosities (Torture Museum for dinner, anyone?) among other sightseeing highlights.
It’s also a fun and convenient way to keep track of the details of our travels as we make our way around the world. You can visit Mike’s profile, Ben’s profile, and my profile on the site and create one for yourself while you’re there.
We knew we would spend some time visiting Carthage when we were in Tunisia, but beyond that, I had no idea where to go or what to see while we were in Tunis.
Mike, however, had plans.
He loves going to the ends of the earth — literally. He is fascinated by the farthest points on the compass on each continent, and he had a surprise planned for me in Africa. He’d arranged a driver for the day and wouldn’t tell me where we were going. I was just supposed to pack a water bottle and a camera and come along for the ride.
We left our riad in the medina of Tunis and headed through cities, neighborhoods, farms, and forests on our way to the mysterious destination. After a couple of hours on the road, we arrived at what seemed like it might be a park, and we had to leave the car and travel the rest of the way on foot.
We crested a hill, and there it sat: Ras Angela. A rocky cape that is the northernmost tip of the continent of Africa.
Gazing over the Mediterranean Sea, the three of us — Mike, driver Mohamed, and I — were the only ones around. At least until a skin diver surfaced a few dozen yards away, searching the seabed for abalone.
It was serene and lovely, and you can take a 360-degree virtual visit of Ras Angela for yourself via Mike’s Google photosphere.
But the surprise didn’t end there.
Next on our day-trip agenda was Ichkeul National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site and a stopping point for hundreds of thousands of birds on their annual migration routes. Ducks, geese, storks, and pink flamingos can often be spotted at the lake, but during our visit, there wasn’t a bird in sight.
It was still a gorgeous view, though, and so different from the chaotic bustle of the Tunis medina or the doomed history of Carthage.
Take in a 360-degree view of Ichkeul National Park from the visitors’ center at the highest point above the lake.
After a fun road trip, we returned to the medina to wash off the dust and find an early dinner. We were spending our Tunisian nights at Dar Traki, a riad located in the heart of the Tunis medina, or old town. It is a stunning space with a series of private suites that open on an enchanting internal courtyard that offers a respite from the chaos surrounding it.
We’d stopped at one of the local restaurants the day before and gobbled down delicious spicy flatbread sandwiches, eager for some spice after two months in Europe. After discovering that most of the nearby restaurants weren’t yet open for dinner (fine dining establishments in Tunis tend to follow the ways of the French and don’t open for evening meals until 7 p.m. or later), we happily returned to the same sandwich shop and enjoyed the same meal all over again.
Why didn’t we venture further to find something new and different, you may ask? Because once you find your way in an ancient medina like Tunis, it’s best to stick with the path you know, like Hansel and Gretel with the breadcrumbs.
Each of those squares is an open courtyard, and it’s surrounded by a building that acts as a small fortress and is typically only accessible through a single door. Often those doors are unmarked, and you’d never guess what lies on the other side.
This is what lies on the other side of the ten-foot-tall emerald green doors that lead into Dar Traki in the medina of Tunis:
This is what actually lies behind those gorgeous green doors. Layer upon layer of color and texture and pattern that’s been added to over many years and will always remain timeless.
And beyond the green doors of Dar Traki, this is what you’ll find as you wander the twists and turns of the ancient Tunisian medina.