Monday, 4 June 2012

Tunisia, Tunis

Leather Masks in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Leather Masks at Sidi Bou Said
We were fortunate to visit Tunisia on two separate occasions just prior to the December 2010 events that resulted in the downfall of the Ben Ali dictatorship. As we had been to Libya before their revolution we thought that the problems may have been caused by us however we have never been to Egypt so we now sleep well at nights knowing that revolutions were not following us around. :-)

Taxi Tours Poster
Taxi Tours - 2010
Tunisia is a small North African country of just 165,000 sq. km (64,000 sq. miles) that lies on the Mediterranean Sea and is sandwiched between its much larger neighbours - Libya & Algeria. The southern part of the country is predominantly made up of the Sahara Desert and therefore extremely arid. Although the coastline has numerous sandy beaches & resorts such as Sousse, Monastir & Hammamet, the main 3 attractions that entice visitors to Tunis would have to be Carthage, Sidi Bou Said & the Tunis Medina (fans of the Star Wars films would probably differ as many locations were used in Tunisia).
Ancient city of Carthage, Tunisia

Blue Door in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Colourful door in Sidi Bou Said
Carthage - The ancient city of Carthage is located about 17 kms (11 miles) from the capital city of Tunis. The Presidential Palace also sits overlooking the ancient site of Carthage and as we we there prior to the revolution, were instructed that no photos were to be taken in the direction of the palace. Quite frankly, there really isn't much to see here. As interesting as its history is on paper there really isn't that much left compared to other archaeological sites in the Mediterranean such as Pompeii, Ephesus & Leptis Magna. A visit however to the Carthage National Museum which is not far away is well worth a visit not only for its contents but for its splendid views over the city of Tunis.

Sidi Bou Said - The quaint small town of Sidi Bou Said is about 20kms (12miles) from Tunis. This seaside town is a major tourist attraction due to its white-washed houses and brightly coloured blue doors. It also has a reputation as a town known for its artists. It's an interesting town to visit but try to visit when there are no cruise ships in port as it gets swamped by tour groups. You can get great view of the Mediterranean Sea & Bay of Tunis from the top of the hill. Well worth a visit is  a traditional home that now has been converted into a museum. It is a fascinating look at traditional life in the 18th century. There is also a small souk and souvenir stalls selling the traditionally made bird cages which are extremely popular. Don't forget to haggle.

Alleyway in the Medina, Tunis - Tunisia
The Tunis Medina
Tunis Medina - Probably the most authentic Tunisian experience of the 3, as you can easily lose yourself in the myriad of alleyways lined with vendors selling just about anything to the enthusiastic tourist. If you get off the beaten track you can find many of the shops that the are frequented by the locals when purchasing items for their everyday needs. Helen was sure that I had managed to get us hopelessly lost here but my ability to navigate back to our starting point impressed her. At least this time I was right !!!

We highly recommend a visit to Tunisia and we would definately love to get back there to photograph & experience more of the country. 

Our Tips:
  1. Like any bazaar, medina, marketplace always carry your bag at the front of your body. This makes it a lot easier to get into the small shops. This is where a sling camera bag comes in handy. Never ever carry anything in your back pocket. 
  2. Be prepared to increase your ISO settings in the Medina to allow you to get a good depth of field with a fast shutter speed. Taking photos in the narrow Medina, like any marketplace where there is limited light and huge amounts of contrast is very challenging. Be patient.
  3. Concentrate on capturing portrait/candid people shots or colourful images of souvenirs & wares.
  4. For images taken elsewhere make sure you carry a polarizing filter/ND. These will be particularly useful in Sidi Bou Said, for example, if you want to shoot with a wide aperture in bright light for portraits. As most of the buildings are white it could also cause your camera meter to underexpose images so maybe consider overexposing the shots a little (do a few test shots and look at your histogram. If the meter is underexposing then it will start to bunch up to the left of the histogram. Adjust your exposure compensation dial until the tones start to move back towards the centre of the histogram. Overexposed images will start to bunch up to the right).
  5. Try some HDR shots at Carthage as they allow tripods to be taken in. On a bright sunny day you may want to hand-hold your HDR shots but if time permits put the tripod to work.
You can check out more images on our Tunisia gallery on our website 

What's your favourite place in Tunisia? Leave us a comment.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you.

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