Northern Excursion: Part 1

I have spent the past week traveling throughout Tunisia and have seen so many beautiful places. I have spent time in the mountains, at the sea, and almost everything in between.

Our journey began early Monday morning at 8am. We boarded the twenty passenger bus that was to become our means of transportation for the next six days. We stopped at Carrefour on our way to pick up some snacks in preparation for the length of our trip. Needless to say we ended up buying too much food, but what can I say? College students love shopping for snacks, especially when someone else is paying.

We started heading southwest towards Le Kef. On the way we stopped at the ancient Roman city of Dougga.

A view of the theater from the ground level.
A view of the theater from the ground level.
View of the theater from above.
View of the theater from above.

Our academic director was eager to show us all around this site. I was amazed at how well preserved most of the city was. I guess that is one of the benefits of building a city on a giant hill near the mountains. I also couldn’t get enough of the mountain air. I love the sea, but every time I travel to the mountains I feel so refreshed. I’m still deciding which I like more.

After spending roughly an hour learning about the history of the ruins and exploring it, we ate lunch at a nearby restaurant and continued our journey to Le Kef.

Here are a few more pictures from Dougga:

Ancient temple dedicated to Jupiter.
Ancient temple dedicated to Jupiter.
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Prickly Pear: one of my new favorite fruits.
This is believed to have been a hostel where passing travelers would spent the night.
This is believed to have been a hostel where passing travelers would spent the night.
This is what restrooms looked like back in the day!
This is what restrooms looked like back in the day!

After spending a few more hours on the bus, snacking along the way and singing a few tunes we arrived in Le Kef. It was beautiful! I have been waiting to visit Le Kef ever since I applied to the SIT program in Tunisia and researched where we would be going on our excursions. It just looked so beautiful and it did not disappoint!

Isn't it lovely?
Isn’t it lovely?

As soon as we arrived we had free time to explore. We decided to head up towards the center of the city. We walked through winding streets and found some beautiful lookouts from which to snap some great pictures, such as the one above.

These stairs looked like they lead somewhere exciting..so we decided to climb them.
These stairs looked like they lead somewhere exciting..so we decided to climb them.

We also found some adorable kittens while walking around the city. Cats are everywhere in Tunisia and in order to have some fun my SIT cohorts and I created an Instagram called selfie Tunisian cats. The title is self-explanatory, but check it out if you’re looking to kill some time, or maybe you just love cats.

https://instagram.com/selfie_tunisian_cats/

Some shy little kittens we found in Le KEf.
The adorable little kittens we found in Le Kef.

After walking around a bit we had some free time. We all napped for a little and lounged around. I got to work on reading my first Kurt Vonnegut book. I know, I know, what as I thinking waiting this long?? Luckily Mounir has more Kurt Vonnegut books in his library at SIT so I plan to continue to add to my list of Kurt Vonnegut books. For those of you who are Vonnegut fans the book I read was God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, and if you haven’t read it I would highly recommend it.

We were told dinner would be at 7pm so we all gathered in the main room at that time. We soon discovered we would have to wait a bit for dinner. The reason being was that we needed to wait for the police. Yes, you read that correctly. Everywhere we went we were to escorted by policemen, be it the national guard or the local police. Although this may sound strange and scary, it is something that happens every year on the program.

Our AD has to submit our itinerary to the Ministry of Tourism and they need to approve our travels. We were lucky to walk around for a little in Le Kef because after that we were told by the police that that was no longer allowed. I want to make it clear that Le Kef is not a dangerous place and neither is Tunisia. I have never felt unsafe while I have been here. However, Tunisia cannot afford for something else to happen to another group of tourists. They were with us to ensure our safety and would have been with us even if the Bardo and Sousse attacks had not occurred.

If you were to travel to Tunisia as a tourist you would not need to submit an itinerary to the Ministry of Tourism and you would not have police escorting you places. We are given special protection because SIT wants to ensure our safety by cooperating with the Ministry of Tourism.

After our police escorts arrived we went to what is supposedly the best restaurant in town called “Restaurant Venus.” It wasn’t one of my favorite meals in Tunisia, but I enjoyed the company. After dinner we all watched a movie. It was called “Begin Again” and was a romantic comedy. It wasn’t the best movie and we were too tired to finish the whole thing, but it was fun bonding as a group.

On Tuesday morning we had to rearrange our schedules a bit. We had planned to meet with an NGO that deals with education, but they were not ready to meet since school has not yet started for the younger kids. Instead we visited some more ruins. It was very small and judging by how long it took the attendant to open the gate it seemed the place has not had many visitors recently.

There are always ruins to be explored in Tunisia.
There are always ruins to be explored in Tunisia.
The surrounding landscape was beautiful.
The surrounding landscape was beautiful.

After the ruins we headed back to Le Kef for lunch. Tunisians usually take a two hour lunch break. Not all of the break is for eating however, some of it is for napping and simply taking a break. School children are also sent home for a two hour break as well. In keeping with Tunisian culture, we also went back to the hotel for a little down time.

In the afternoon we had the chance to visit an organic farm located only 6km from Le Kef(that’s a little over 3.5 miles). One of the reasons we were visiting the farm is because one of the girls on my program will be graduating this semester an wants to stay in Tunisia to work on a farm. She was very excited about this opportunity.

The owner of the farm is named Moez and he is part of the “slow food movement,” as in the opposite of fast food. They grow various grains out of which they make traditional cakes and pastries. Part of the farm’s mission is to educate youth about eating natural healthy food. Many kids in Tunisia may eat processed goods, Moez and his team try to teach kids about alternatives.

They also sell their products to the local community. They have many grape trees and I know how delicious these grapes are because we were given about ten bunches by Moez. We pretty much all had a stomachache after we left the farm and we still had more grapes.

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The grape trees.
Delicious and 100% natural
Delicious and 100% natural.
A view of Le Kef from the farm.
A view of Le Kef from the farm.

Next we visited the Kasbah of Le Kef. The Kasbah is an old fortress that was used to protect the city. As such it sits on a giant hill and provides a great view of the surrounding areas.

I couldn't get enough of all these mountains.
I couldn’t get enough of all the mountains.

We continued exploring the city a bit with our escorts in tow. After Mounir gave us a brief tour we went back to the hotel before dinner. Ironically inner was served to us by Moe’s mother. His sister owns the little villa we were staying in and has arranged for her mother, who owns a restaurant in Le Kef to cook for us. The food was all delicious and very fresh. Much of the food cam from the farm we had visited earlier that day.

After spending two nights in Le Kef it was time to say goodbye. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast before leaving (the breakfast was delicious on the first morning as well, I just forgot to mention it). There was fresh honey along with some sort of date biscuit, fresh orange juice and many others things that tasted wonderful even if I’m not sure what they were.

I’ll have to leave you in suspense and end the first part of the excursion here. But don’t worry, I’ll be back soon!

A bientot!

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