Please note that these pages were written between 2003 and 2005. Rather than update them, I have decided to leave them as is, so they form a snapshot of what Tunisia was at that time, rather than how it is now.

More than anywhere I have been to, Tunisia is a land of contrasts. It is steeped in history - most notably Carthaginian and Roman, but also it is very modern with new cars, motorways and hypermarkets (well one - Carrefour).

To many Europeans it is an ideal and cheap package tour destination having plenty of sun, beaches and tourist infrastructure. Although an Islamic country it is also thought of as being liberal and western leaning. However, despite the veil being outlawed, it is still quite conservative. There are few bars and those that do exist are not very welcoming.

According to the facts it is also a democracy. The President, Ben Ali must be very popular indeed as he won over 90% of the votes last time around and has done so in the last three elections despite growing unemployment.

The bureaucracy is an absolute nightmare. I bought a car within a week of arriving but couldn't legally drive it for four months while I collected various documents.

On the plus side however the people are amazingly friendly and knowledgeable of the world around them. It is also very beautiful, with some great beaches and well conserved historical sites (mainly Roman) but is blighted by some awful concrete box houses especially in the south of the country.

Having been run by the French for some time there are some great cafes (totally male dominated) and pastry shops, but not that many decent restaurants.

We lived here between September 2003 and June 2005 and I still find it difficult to see whether the pluses or minuses held sway. I often contemplated all the problems as I swung in my hammock and listened to the sound of the waves on a beach not 100 metres away. I sipped a very palatable Tunisian white and decided that things weren't so bad after all.