Our invited author guides us through the allure of holidaying in Tunisia, a perfect location not just for sunbathing and water sports, but also for history and photography.
Here, we ‘re looking at northern Africa but more specifically, Tunisia for holidays in 2014, providing an overview of the country including its history and architecture, along with some ideas for taking photographs in the nearby Sahara desert.
Tunisia has increased in popularity recently. On the north coast of Africa with idyllic beaches and the azure blue Mediterranean Sea, it offers a lot to seasoned and budding travellers alike. The coast is a water sports enthusiast’s paradise with diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, yachting and boat trips. Numerous beaches include Sidi Bou Said near Tunis and its picturesque old town.
Steeped in history, the country is a mix of civilizations from nearly three thousand years of history, situated as a Mediterranean crossroads between Africa, Europe and the East. Ancient Phoenicians built Carthage; subsequent influences included the Romans, Arabs, Turks and French. After the fall of the Roman empire, there were various uprisings and battles and the country then became Muslim in the seventh century. From 1881 to 1956 the main cultural influence was French, being one of its protectorates. Tunisia later gained independence and more recently held its first elections.
Tunisia boasts unique architecture with shrines, amphitheatres, ancient baths, churches and cenotaphs almost everywhere one travels. More than fifty sites have applied for or have UNESCO world heritage status. With their captivating features and opportunities to compose great photographs, there are almost endless visual delights for those with a photographer’s eye. Apart from Tunis itself, some popular sites that are open to visitors and easy to access include Carthage, Chemtou, Dougga, El Kef, El Jem, Kairouan, Kerkouane, Sbeitla and Sousse. One particularly interesting location is the sunken remains of the largest Roman amphitheatre in Africa, at Oudhna.
Desert trips offer spectacular sand dunes, huge canyons, oasis villages with mosques and salt lakes. There are impressive sights, but also unique challenges. To capture the best of these dramatic landscapes, consider taking photographs early or late in the day for softer light, with more vivid colours and a purple or orange hue. Focus also on points of interest — shrubs, palm trees, people (with permission), camel trains or even lines and patterns or shadow — but not endless sand. Crouch down for different angles. In desert heat and sand, camera care and maintenance are important to avoid destructive sand and heat damage.
If you’re going to explore the interior or desert, a guide is recommended. Getting lost in any country is no fun, but getting lost in the desert can be fatal.