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One hour from Hammamet, Tunis takes you by surprise with its modern conference halls, hotels, banks, bright yellow taxis rushing passengers around, with all the hustle and bustle of a modern Mediterranean city. Steel and glass blend with the baroque, palm trees look down on chic boutiques, gardens and cafés.
A stroll around the city begins at the monument of November 7, which marks Tunisia's turn towards the future, and then walk down shady tree lined Avenue Habib Bourguiba, with its flower stands, passing bookstores and galleries. Further, beyond the Cathedral and the statue of Ibn Khaldoun, looms the gateway to the ancient Medina.
As you enter these narrow streets, centuries slip away and, just like Alice, you step into the looking glass of another world. Small shops, their treasures of brass, olive wood, leather and brightly coloured garments spill out into the street. Souvenirs, antiques, berber jewellery, carpets and pottery vie for your attention. Continue, if you can resist their lures, upwards towards the Mosque of the Olive Tree, Ez Zitouna, as old as the town itself and the heart of the Medina.
Rebuilt in the 9th century, the Ez Zitouna was for centuries the focal point of life in this Arab city as urban planning decreed the order in which the different trades were placed, and the most noble - booksellers, perfumeries, dried fruits sellers and cloth merchants - held the privilege of proximity to the Mosque. Today one can still see traces of this tradition - the Souk of the Perfumes, traditional clothing shops and spice sellers are still located alongside its walls.
The medina is a wealth of ancient palaces, mosques and centres of trade and learning, a living museum. Dar Ben Abdullah, Dar Hussein, Dar El Bey, Dar El Jeld, Dar El Haddad, Dar Othman, once residences of wealthy traders or ministers, now house cultural centres, restaurants or government agencies.
There are many sites and places of interest to visit in and around Tunis, the most popular of which are : The world famous ruins of the former capital, Carthage, which was founded by the Phoenicians, and then, later, rebuilt by the Romans. This ancient city has left many impressions on the new capital. The National Bardo Museum, which was the palace of the former Bey of Tunis. Now it houses the worlds largest collection of Roman mosaics, along with displays of Tunisian life, through the ages. The Artists Village of Sidi Bou Said, which is situated close by and nestles in the hills overlooking the bay of Tunis. It is a picturesque village of blue and white buildings, cobbled streets, small shops and numerous cafes.
The centre of Tunis is 20 minutes away from Tunis airport and 2 ½ hours from Monastir airport.