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Overview

The interior of Tunisia is an exceptionally varied and interesting region, one whose wealth of cultural and architectural attractions are sometimes poorly served by a country that thrives mainly on all-inclusive beach package tourism. Formerly part of the Roman Empire, Tunisia is studded with relics from this ancient era, ranging from the magnificent Roman Colosseum at El-Jem (setting for the stadium scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian) to the spectacular Sufetula Temple Complex at Sbeitla. This African outpost of ancient Rome was particularly well known for its mosaic work, many fine examples of which can be seen in situ all around ...

The interior of Tunisia is an exceptionally varied and interesting region, one whose wealth of cultural and architectural attractions are sometimes poorly served by a country that thrives mainly on all-inclusive beach package tourism. Formerly part of the Roman Empire, Tunisia is studded with relics from this ancient era, ranging from the magnificent Roman Colosseum at El-Jem (setting for the stadium scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian) to the spectacular Sufetula Temple Complex at Sbeitla. This African outpost of ancient Rome was particularly well known for its mosaic work, many fine examples of which can be seen in situ all around the country or at the El-Jem Mosaic Museum. Predominantly Islamic, but with a mood that seems more closely aligned to Mediterranean Europe than to Arabia, the Tunisian interior is studded with ancient Islamic cities centered on bustling medinas whose alleys are ideally suited to whimsical exploration on foot – among the most interesting being Sfax, Sousse and Kairouan. Altogether different from the rest of the country is the far south, whose Berber residents live in lovely adobe mountain strongholds known as Ksours. Odder still is Matmata, most of whose Berber residents live in subterranean dwellings so unusual that they were used as a setting in the movie Star Wars. In the far southwest, the immense sea of sand known as the Grand Erg Oriental, best visited on a camelback expedition, is a stunning landscape of tall apricot dunes that might once again be familiar to movie buffs – the inspiring aerial opening scenes of The English Patient were shot here.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

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    It's lovely during the northern winter but can be very hot in summer.