We came to Tunisia this time to extend a traditional marriage proposal for Soumaya on behalf of our brother, Fandi. In our Malay tradition, such proposal shall officially be carried out by the family of the groom.
It was time to go home when that duty was fulfilled.
It took us 3-hours drive from Mahdia to Tunis. We arrived Tunis around 2:00pm that day.
Our flight was due the next morning so we had approximately half a day to roam around.
“Go to Sidi Bou Said and find Café Sidi Chabaane. You’ll love the view there.” Soumaya told me upon saying her last goodbye.
Apparently, she was very good at reading my wanderlust mind.
Right after everyone has left, Anto & I went outside the hotel looking for a cab to Sidi Bou Said. There were a couple of yellow cabs across the road. Upon trying our luck haggling, we were offered a half-day tour drive at the price of 20 TND per person to the attractions near Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and La Marsa Corniche. We did not have much time to waste. Agreeing to it, we quickly jumped on the back seat of the cab.
From Ibis Hotel, we head toward Carthage and made our first stop at Carthage Amphitheatre. The Carthage Amphitheatre was only a short distance from the road side where we parked. It was built in the 1st century (AC) and it was once a capital of Roman province in Africa. There were two openings each on both sides of the oval-shaped arena, said to be the access ways to let-in the wild animals during the gladiator fights many centuries ago.
The visit to Carthage Amphitheatre was historically interesting although the ruins were not as physically remarkable as the other Roman city ruins we’ve seen in Turkey.
After several photo shots, we made our way to St. Louis Cathedral located on the peak of Byrsa Hill. The historical cathedral was now a concert hall. Next to it was the Carthage Acropolium where the remnants of Punic and Roman ruins (public library, sculptures, chapel, mosaics, coffins, etc) were kept. We enjoyed a good view of the city from the top of Byrsa Hill although we did not hang about very long. There were not much activities around that day, except for a group of tourist visiting the Acropolium.
The next destination was Antonine Baths Complex – the largest Roman bath outside Rome which was now also a ruin. The Antonine Baths Complex is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This too was just a short stop as we looked forward to spend longer time in Sidi Bou Said.
As we continued the ride to Sidi Bou Said, the surrounding neighborhood caught our attention. From inside the cab moving downhill, we can see the scenic road with palm trees on the road sides and the ocean laid at the end of the horizon. It crossed my mind that this might be some kind of Tunisian elite area. This was confirmed later when we were told that the Presidential Palace was just around the corner.
At Sidi Bou Said, the cab driver dropped us off at a lower ground of the hill and let us explores the area ourselves. We agreed to meet him at the same drop-off spot later on.
Sidi Bou Said was named after a religious man – Abou Said ibn Khalef (Sidi in Arabic means ‘Master’) who lived his live on this hill long time ago.
All the buildings here were painted white and the doors and windows in blue. The cobbled streets lined with shops and cafes added personal charm to this lovely town. It was nearly 5.00pm and not many of the shops were still open. I can imagine this town being very crowded during peak hours, especially in summers.
As we were passing by shops after shops, we tried to look for Café Sidi Chabaane at every corner of the alleys. The pathway leading uphill didn’t slow us down.
We nearly turn around when we thought we would never find the place.
“Maybe we’ve missed it?”, “Should keep walking further?”. We kept asking each other.
We stopped for a while lifting down our faces with frustration. It was then a panoramic view of the ocean caught our eyes, and Café Sidi Chabaane was just at the lower end of the cliff!
Café Sidi Chabaane was at a steep cliff of the hill with its dining area overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
It was simply breathtaking! As for me, it looked pretty much like a mini Santorini (in Greece) in a glance.
We decided to have our dinner here while enjoying the ambience. The service was a bit slow but we could not be much bothered as the sea breeze and the spectacular view might have been calmed us down. Surprisingly the meals were not frustrating at all and the price was reasonable. I would personally give more merit to this place if the tidiness is improved. But anyway, the wind blows will displace the seating cloth back again I pressume.
We then returned to the cab as the sun began to set.
Sidi Bou Said looked even more attractive with the pale orange tinted rays layering the beautiful town.
It was nearly dark when we reached La Marsa Corniche. There was nothing much we can do as the wintery wind blows made it a cold chilly evening. We took a short stroll and later decided to get back to the hotel.
Due to our limited time in Tunis, we did not get to have a full tour as much as we want to. But even so, an evening in Sidi Bou Said has made our stay in Tunis a memorable one.