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Phespirit goes to Tunisia
tour     March/April 2000

Phespirit returns to the Maghreb to take in the interesting and under-rated country of Tunisia. This small North African nation is littered with sites of major historical significance, stretching from the founding of Carthage in early classical times, through the arrival of Islam, on to the days of French colonialism and the Second World War.

Highlights? All right. Firstly, on taking a ferry across from mainland Djorf to Ajim on the island of Djerba, Phespirit was well pleased to be joined by four or five dolphins flopping merrily about in the port-side waters. Not because Phespirit is soppily sentimental about these inanely grinning creatures, but simply because this ignorant traveller was not aware that they occupied the local waters. Thus, a bonus.

Secondly, Chott el Djerid - a huge salt lake indicated by the white splurge on the map page. Massively impressive in scale, Phespirit had no preconception of what this would look like in reality. Surely not a white crystal crust as far as the eye can see in every direction? Well, actually, yes, give or take a few mountains on the horizon, the occasional palm tree mirage and a very light dusting of sand. Extraordinary.

Thirdly, there is the Bardo Museum in Tunis. Wall to wall to floor to wall, this museum is packed solid with mosaics taken from the many Roman sites scattered liberally around the Northern half of country. In particular, Phespirit was fascinated by the third century mosaic depicting a seated Virgil flanked by Clio and Melpomene, the muses of history and tragedy. Originally found in Sousse, this is the only portrait of the immortal poet to be found anywhere in the world. Another unexpected bonus for the ignorant traveller. Utterly unique.

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