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1. Beach holidays

2. Desert and oases

3. The empty mountains

4. Carthage and Romans

5. Islamic times

6. Berber sensations

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The empty mountains

Ain Draham



Jugurtha's Table



It looks almost like someone sometime commanded all Tunisians to move to the coast. The mountains feels empty of people, and it is hard to see the reason why. Forests, fresh grass and rivers that carry water most of the year, as well as a mild climate would appear attractive to most.
Remains from the Roman era confirms my impressions; some of the finest Roman cities were built in the interior, and in most cases these cities were bigger than the nearest modern settlement. Along the coast, the modern settlements house perhaps 10 times more inhabitants than most of their ancient counterparts.
The Tunisian mountains represent the easternmost part of the larger Atlas mountains, which is shared with Algeria. They begin along the northern coast and end dramatically in the south at Tamerza and Chebika. Perhaps the perfect place to consider the eastern end of the mountains is at Zriba, this incredible village just 10 km from the Mediterranean, which is abandoned by its inhabitants lured into modernity by the prison-like prefab houses thrown along the road of modern Zriba. On a good day, at the top of Zriba you can see the whole of Cap Bon until its cape some 100 km away.
The Tunisian mountains never rise above 1500 metres, but at several spots, the nature is fabulous. In that respect, this would be very nice biking and trekking country. Hunting is another attraction here, there are several stations servicing the needs of hunters, and wild boar is quite easy to come by.
The mountains also attests to the diversity of Tunisian history. Kbor Klib and Elles tell the story of North Africa from before any foreigner, whether Punic or Roman, arrived here, while the mountain of Jugurtha's Table makes me wonder why nobody haven't decided to use it in a grand science fiction movie yet: I can think of no better place to park an intergalactic space ship.
The crown of all mountain towns, as well as my favourite town of Tunisia, is Le Kef. It is a sizeable town, and it seems to have collected a bit of every era of Tunisia's history.
Travelling here is by far recommended with a rented car. As the region is so scarcely inhabited, communications are scant compared with the coast. And as always, Tunisians keep their roads in excellent shape. Hotels, however, can be a challenge. At certain points, the nearest hotel, no matter what standard, will be 150 km away. Food is slightly easier, if you consider omelettes an acceptable dinner substitute, but once you have found a hotel, there will be a restaurant or more nearby. It may well have changed now, but in Jendouba, I actually had the very best meal anywhere anytime in Tunisia.

By Tore Kjeilen