Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tunis, Tunisia

Tunis, Tunisia
As our next bicycle tour is not scheduled until next weekend, we will continue our Mediterranean tour and our stop at Tunis.
Tunis is the capital of Tunisia, the northernmost country in Africa.

The city feels neither Arab nor African. It is a place where the old and new mix without any seeming conflict. In the background from the docking area, one can see new buildings, old buildings, a mosque and to the left a church steeple.
The architecture has Moorish and French influences and way of life, complete with camels.
There are remnants of Roman influence, at least in the Roman (?) band that greeted the ship.
Tunis is the largest city of Tunisia with a population of over 2 million. On one corner you might see women with traditional head covering. On another, you might see girls in tight jeans and tops.

My point?
(Women have not had to cover their heads in Tunis since the mid-1980's).
Our tour passed by the Vincent De Paul Cathedral on the Place de L'Indepencence. Vincent De Paul was a Catholic saint who came as a slave to Tunis who helped other Christian slaves after earning his freedom. The Cathedral was built in 1882 and is one of the largest remnants of the Colonial era. The architecture of the Cathedral is ofter described as being grotesque, and it does seem quite out of place. However, the Cathedral was built by the French living in a predominantly Islamic country and the architectural style reflects this odd situation.

The Tunis government buildings have a little more "modern" look to them but is still a mixture of architecture.
The country was still in a bit of turmoil, and barbed wire barriers were around many of the government buildings. 
Christine does not seem to be concerned with the political situation. What you will not see in these pictures are shots of the soldiers, police, or guards in the area. It was taboo to take a picture of them. We were not told of the consequences, just not to do it.

I am sure this door is meaningful and symbolic, but to me it was just pretty.

As was this apartment that made the alley a dead end.

But just turn around and there was the Mosque Sidi Youssef. It is the oldest of the four Turkic, octagonal minarets of Tunis (minaret is a distinctive architectural feature of Islamic mosques, generally a tall spire with an onion-shaped or conical crown).

Another government building (I forgot what function was housed here, but it was pretty).

Part of the aqueduct system of ancient Carthage. It supplied water to 24 cisterns near the Byrsa Hill, where the city of Carthage was first erected.

The headquarters building of the Tunis channel, i.e., the national TV channel of the government.

Carthage is a suburb of Tunis with a population of 20,715 and was the center of the Carthaginian Empire in antiquity. The city has existed for nearly 3,000 years, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium B.C. into the capital of an ancient empire. Above are some of the ruins of the original city. 

Aqueduct into the city.

Part of the cistern system.

Carthage has a long impressive history. It became Rome's fourth most important city and the second most important city in the Roman West. It remained one of the most important Roman cities until the Muslim conquest when it was destroyed a second time in 689.
One can not discuss Carthage without acknowledging that Hannibal, one of the greatest military commanders of history, hailed from Carthage. One of his most famous achievements was at the outbreak of the Second Punic War when he marched an army, which included war elephants, from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into northern Italy. 

  Politics, politics. It was mentioned above that Carthage was destroyed by the Muslims long ago. Some of the guide's story is vague, but what I remember is that the residents of Carthage might still have a resentment. The Muslims wanted to build a Mosque over ruins of world heritage importance and were denied by the UN. A powerful politician allowed the building of the above Mosque over the objections. I think the guide ended the story by pointing out that the Mosque was not supposed to be there.  
More ruins as we were leaving the area to-----
go shopping!! Hannibal on one of his trusty elephants welcomed us into the shopping area.

I don't remember what Christine bought, but I wandered outside and took a picture of some of the wares for sale. The owner of the stand "knew" I was interested and followed me onto the bus trying to get me to come back and buy something. (I wisely left the shopping to the expert).
Next we went to the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.
The cemetery and memorial was beautiful and well kept. The cemetery layout is similar to the Arlington cemetery in Virginia, as the white crosses commemorate the fallen American soldiers who fought in north Africa beginning the Allies' push against Nazi Germany. There are 2,840 crosses and a Wall of Remembrance to the 3,724 who were never found. This is also a great marble map with the battle plan, showing how the offensive was carried out.
Then it was time to return to the fort-on-the-pier.
With the continued blend of old (Arabian village) and the new (our ship).
Too bad the blog does not have sound. Christine joined the band and produced the Arabian ululation women make during celebrations. (A skill from her long ago belly dancing days--which is another story).
And then it was time to get back on the ocean liner for another adventure.

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