Return to Tunisia Part 5; Dougga Ruins and Testour Town
The rain was still pelting down with no signs of stopping. What a shame.
But we were able to forget about it for a while as we sat down to eat the most delicious traditional breakfast, washed down with pots of very tasty coffee.
I loved the local cheese, Testourian cheese, which is creamy and almost sweet. More about this later. I ate it on Tunisian bread topped with local honey. Then we had scrambled eggs.
We said our goodbyes to Raoudha and went to El Kef town. We had a look round the Fort, where the Festival was on, because we hadn’t seen anything of it the night before.
El Kef was originally called Sicca by the Carthaginians and the Romans, and it became known as El Kef in the 16th Century.
The Fort was started in the 13th Century and added to and altered by the Romans, Ottomans and the Byzantines. It was finally fortified in the 17th Century to be a permanent garrison, and completed in 1746.
It stands 750mts above sea level and has lovely views of El Kef.
Below is the Roman Basilica, called Dar el Kous which is 400 years older than the Fort, having been started in the 4th Century AD. It became a UNESCO site in 1958.
Although it was closed for renovation we were allowed a special tour of the building.
Quite honestly there didn’t seem to be any work going on, but they told me they were waiting for experts who all came from other countries like Spain and Italy, and were always in great demand.
We drove along the wet road and stopped at a roadside café, hoping the rain would at least ease off.
I had a freshly squeezed orange juice and we bought large bottles of water from the fridge for one dinar – 25p!
As the sky was still full of rain, we decided to have lunch, although none of us was hungry.
We went to the Hotel Thugga, (pronounced Dougga) and Slim recommended the wild boar. There was a boar’s head hanging on the wall.
He said there are two types of boar; the Northern one that lives in woodlands, and the Southern one that lives in the Sahara.
Since my visit, I’ve researched it and discovered that there are organised all-inclusive boar hunting holidays, popular with Europeans, mainly Germans. They’re even allowed to bring their own guns and up to 50 bullets, to my amazement. They pay thousands for the trip and start at 7am. They don’t even have time for sightseeing; they just shoot, shoot, shoot at innocent animals.
The organisers boast that around Kebili and Tozeur in the South, they shoot with wild camels in the background. I suppose they’ll be the next victims.
Not the kind of tourism that Tunisia should be encouraging.
As Tunisia is mainly a Muslim country, you can’t even get bacon for breakfast in hotels. But it seems that eating wild boar is allowed.
The meat tasted like pork, but a bit more gamey.
My verdict? Good food, lousy service. It’s an out-of-the-way hotel. The waiting staff seemed to begrudge our presence. They were miserable and didn’t clear away any dirty plates. I had my food slapped down in front of me last, and even then they got the order wrong. No apology though. That’s the first and only time I’ve experienced anything like that in Tunisia.
Maybe they thought we were European killers.
It was no use hanging on any longer, so we left and drove on to Dougga. It’s a Roman city, huge and quite well preserved.
I took photos without anyone blocking them, then I went into the amphitheatre, which is in very good condition. So I climbed onto the stage and recited Shakespeare, ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.’
The acoustics were marvellous. It reached to the top and all round without me having to raise my voice, (Andrew could hear me clearly opposite, right up the top) but when I was forced to learn that at school, I never dreamed I’d be reciting it in a Roman amphitheatre in Tunisia, under my umbrella in the pouring rain!
As we were leaving, a coachload of Chinese ladies wearing masks arrived and spread out, so we got our final photos just in time.
Our next stop was in the small town of Testour, where that lovely cheese is made. It’s like going back in time, several centuries. And even the Mosque clock goes backwards….
Most people were dressed in traditional clothing, and there were several tailors making the outfits – or rather, they had outfits in their shops, but were chatting and drinking coffee or mint tea.
The whole town is like a film set; not much work being done and not a tourist in sight.
Jews and Muslim refugees began arriving in Tunisia in large numbers to avoid persecution, from the 11th Century, then in the late 1400s to escape from Ferdinand and Isabella’s battles to make Spain totally Catholic, and finally in 1609 to escape from Philip lll’s evil Spanish Inquisition.
They were educated people, bringing their talents with them, and living in harmony with other religions.
Dominating the town is the Minaret of the Grand Mosque. The clock is completely back-to-front. The numbers are reversed and the hands go backwards. Why? It’s said that it’s because the refugees wanted time to go in reverse so they could return to their old home.
On the Minaret are Christian, Muslim and Jewish signs.
We checked out of the hotel and went to the airport. And guess what? The sun was shining, the sky was blue and it was HOT!