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A Cultural Trip to Tunisia

The Republic of Tunisia is a country in North Africa, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the northernmost country in Africa and at almost 165,000 square kilometres in area, the smallest country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. As of 2019, its population is estimated just under 11.7 million. Its name is derived from its capital city, Tunis, located on the country’s northeast coast. Northern Tunisia has a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winter. The mountains of the north-west occasionally get snow. Annual rainfall ranges from 1,000 mm in the north down to 150 mm in the south, although some Saharan area go for years without rain. From October to beginning of December is ideal for touring.

At the beginning of recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century BC. The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century BC by Phoenician and Cypriot settlers. After the series of wars with Greek city-states of Sicily in the 5th century BC, Carthage rose to power and eventually became the dominant civilisation in the Western Mediterranean.

A Carthaginian invasion of Italy led by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, one of a series of wars with Rome, nearly crippled the rise of Roman power. After the Battle in 149 BC, Carthage was conquered by Rome, the region became one of the main granaries of Rome and was fully Latinised. During the Roman period the area of what is now Tunisia enjoyed a huge development. The prosperity of the area depended on agriculture, called the Granary of the Empire. In addition to the cultivation and the capture and transporting of exotic wild animals from the western mountains, the principal production and exports included the textile, marble, wine, timber, livestock, pottery and wool.

Around the second half of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century, the region was conquered by Arab Muslim, who founded the city of Kairouan, which became the first city of Islam in North Africa. In AD 670, the Great Mosque of Kairouan was erected; it has the oldest standing minaret in the world, it is also considered a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The Arab governors of Tunis founded the Aghlabid Dynasty, which ruled Tunisia, Tripolitania and eastern Algeria from AD 800-909. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule, as extensive irrigation installations were constructed to supple towns with water and promote agriculture. This prosperity permitted luxurious court life and was marked by the construction of new palace cities such as Al-Abassiya and Raqadda in AD 809 and AD 877.

During AD 972-1148 the area was conquered by local Zirids and the invasion of Tunisia by the Banu Hilal sent the region’s urban and economic life into further decline. The coasts were held briefly by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century but following the conquest of Tunisia in 1159-1160 by the Almohads the last Christians in Tunisia disappeared either through forced conversion or emigration. Tunisia remained part of the Almohad state until 1230 when the son of Abu Hafs declared himself independent. During the reign of the Hofsid dynasty, fruitful commercial relationships were established with several Christian Mediterranean states. In the 16th century it became part of the Ottoman Empire. Under loose Turkish rule, Tunisia became a centre of piratical activity in the 16th – 19th century before its establishment as a French protectorate in 1886. Tunisia achieved independent from France in 1956 led by Habib Bourguiba, who later became the first Tunisian President.

The majority of Tunisia’s population (98%) are Muslims while about 2% follow Christianity and Judaism or other religions. The bulk of Tunisia belongs to the Maliki School of Sunni Islam and their mosques are easily recognisable by square minarets. However, the Turks brought with them the teaching of the Hanafi School during the Ottoman rule, and their mosques traditionally have octagonal minarets. Arabic is the official language and Tunisian Arabic known as Derja. In 2010, there were about 6,639,000 French-speakers in Tunisia or about 64% of population.

The culture of Tunisia is mixed due to their long-established history of outside influence from people such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Italian, Spaniards and the French who all left their mark on the country.

Under the leadership of Khun Bilaibhan Sampatisiri, Honorary Advisor to the Siam Society Council, The Society will arrange a cultural trip to The Republic of Tunisia from 3 March to 13 March 2020. We will have an opportunity to visit the amazingly diverse landscape of the Mediterranean coastline to glimpses of the Sahara Desert. Experience Tunisia culture both ancient and modern, discover the mysterious troglodytes houses of the Berbers and visit main archaeological & historical monuments of Tunisia.


Tuesday, 3 to Friday, 13 March 2020


Khun Bilaibhan Sampatisiri, Honorary Advisor to the Siam Society Council


The tentative programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Tuesday 3 March: Bangkok – Istanbul
9pm Meet at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Row U, Check in counter for Turkish Airways.
11.30pm Depart Bangkok for Istanbul by TK69
Day 2: Wednesday 4 March: Istanbul – Tunis
6.25am Arrive at Istanbul International airport, transit for flight to Tunis.
9.05am Depart Istanbul for Tunis by TK 661
10.15am Arrive Tunis-Carthage International airport, transfer to a restaurant for lunch.
Afternoon: Visit the National Bardo Museum, housed in an 18th century Beylical palace. It was the first museum to be founded in Africa and contains the country’s rich archaeological collections, including the world’s largest collection of Roman polychrome mosaics.
After that, check in at the hotel Mövenpick du Lac Tunis.
Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 3: Thursday 5 March: Tunis
Breakfast at the hotel.
9am Proceed to visit the World Heritage site of Carthage, the great Carthaginian Empire, yet today little remains of its former glory. Carthage’s strength came from its trading ships, access to metals, and African manpower which, from the 5th century BC onward, began to dominate southern Spain, Sardinia, western Sicily and the Northern African. Carthage’s most famous hour was when Hannibal Barcu launched his invasion of Italy at the end of the 3rd century BC. For much of its history, Carthage was in a constant state of struggle with the Greeks on Sicily and the Roman Republic, which led to a series of armed conflicts known as the Greek-Punic Wars and Punic Wars. In 148 BC, after the third and final Punic War, Carthage was destroyed and then occupied by Roman forces. Nearly all of the other Phoenician city-states and former Carthaginian dependencies fell into Roman hands from then on.
We will visit the Byrsa Hill with its vestiges of Carthaginian and Roman buildings and the Carthage Museum. Next, continue to see the Punic ports, including the Salammbo Tophet, where urns containing the ashes and milk teeth of 8th century BC children have been unearthed, and the Antonine Baths, a huge Roman bath complex on the edge of the Mediterranean.
After that, proceed to the picturesque village of Sidi Bou Said, located on top of a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, which has a reputation as a town of artists.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant in Sidi Bou Said
Free time to stroll through the cobbled streets in the village. Its trademark are white walls, contrasting sky blue doors and ornate window grids.
Drive back to Tunis visit the Medina, Tunis’s historic heart, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stroll through the winding Medina’s streets. Visit the famous Zaytouna Mosque, spice market and the gold souk.
Dinner at a local restaurant.
Overnight at hotel Mövenpick du Lac Tunis.
Day 4: Friday 6 March: Tunis – Bulla Regia – Dougga – Tunis
Morning: Breakfast at the hotel.
8.30am Proceed to visit the archaeological site of Bulla Regia, remains a unique Roman city, see Roman underground villas with well-preserved mosaic floors, a Roman forum, and a public basilica.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon: Continue to the World Heritage site of Dougga. The ancient hilltop city of Dougga is the most spectacular of the country’s many magnificent Roman sites. The site was a prehistoric Libyan settlement that grew in the second century BC to became one of the capital towns of the Libyan king, Massinisa. Thoroughly Punicised in the process, the town was then attached to the administrative district of Carthage in the Roman period and became the centre of the great farming estates of the Medjerda valley, immensely attractive to Raman and Italian settlers who gathered in small communities alongside the native towns. The town, therefore, is an excellent example of the fusion of Libyan, Punic and Roman culture in North Africa. Prehistoric dolmens, irregular winding streets, Punic-style cult temples and monuments are overlaid by the right-angled regularity of a Roman forum, capitolium, preservation and the charm of the site itself may well be the most-photographed Roman monuments in Tunisia.
After that, proceed back to Tunis.
Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 5: Saturday 7 March: Tunis – Kairouan
Breakfast at the hotel.
8am Check out of the hotel and proceed to Kairouan, the most Holy city in Tunisia. It was here that Islam gained its first foothold in the Maghreb, and the city ranks behind only Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem among Islam’s holy places.
Visit the Medina of Kairouan (the World Heritage site). Most of the attractions are found within the walls of the Medina. The first walls were built towards the end of the 8th century, but they have been razed and rebuilt many times since then. The walls that stand today date mainly from the 18th century.
We will visit the most important sites in the medina such as the Great Mosque of Kairouan. The mosque occupies a large portion of the north-eastern corner of the Medina. It is also known as the Sidi Okba Mosque. After its establishment, Kairouan became an Islamic and Qur’anic learning centre in North Africa. The original version of the first mosque built in AD 670 was completely destroyed and most of what stand today was built by the Aghabids in the 9th century. Next, we will visit The Barber’s Mosque (also called the Zaouia of Sidi Sahab). The complex includes a mausoleum, mosque, and madrassa (Islamic school of learning) and was built between 1629 and 1692 over the tomb of one of Muhammad’s (the prophet of Islam) companions, who died in AD 685.
2pm Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon: Visit the Aghlabid Basins. Two impressive cisterns were built by the Aghlabid in the 9th century to hold the city’s water supply. Water was delivered by aqueduct from the hills about 36 km west of the city. It flowed on into the enormous main holding basin, which was 5-meter deep and 128 meter in diameter. In the centre of the main pool are the remains of pillars which once supported a pavilion where the rulers could come to relax on summer evening. Free time to stroll into the medina (old town), the ancient marketplace encircled by 11th-century walls.
Dinner and overnight at hotel La Kasbah Kairouan.
Day 6: Sunday 8 March 2020: Kairouan – Sbeitla -Tozeur
Breakfast at the hotel.
8.30am Check out of the hotel and proceed to visit the Roman site of Sbeitla with its numerous mosaics, churches, baptisteries, temples, baths, and the Arch of Diocletian.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon: Travel to the date palm grove and Sahara region of Tozeur.
Explore Ong Jemedl, ‘the neck of the camel‘. Travel over barren land and see the Sahara dunes and a Star Wars, Episode 1 film location.
After that continue to check in at hotel Dar Horchani in Tozeur.
Tozeur is the second largest date palm oasis in Tunisia.
Dinner and overnight at the hotel
Day 7: Monday 9 March 2020: Tozeur-Mountain oasis – Douz
Breakfast at the hotel.
8am Check out of the hotel, proceed to the beautiful mountainside oasis.
Visit village of Chebika which was once a Roman outpost, but later became a mountain refuge for the Berber people. You can hike through the Chebika canyon to the source of the mountain oasis.
From Chebika, travel to Tamerza which is the largest mountain oasis in Tunisia. Afterwards, continue to Mides where you will have a nice panoramic view of the canyon below. The canyon was used for the filming of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The English Patient.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: Drive cross the Chott el Djerid. This chott (flat, dry salt lake) is the largest in Tunisia and only becomes an inner sea during the winter rains. Most of the year it is a salty and dry marsh with the light reflected from the crystal surface creating mirages. Continue to Douz, a typical desert village. Douz is a maze of sand-coloured homes, narrow streets, a central marketplace and palm-filled oases.
Dinner and overnight at hotel Sahara Douz.
Day 8: Tuesday 10 March: Douz-Matmata-Chenini-Tataouine
Breakfast at the hotel.
8.30am Check out of the hotel and proceed to Matmata, centre of the most extensive number of traditional troglodyte pit homes in the region. The landscape is barren and marked with fissures, crags and small table-top mountains. Visit of one of these dwelling caves, and visit the hotel Sidi Driss, where scenes from the Lars homestead in Star Wars were filmed.
Continue to visit Ksar Haddada, one of the most picturesque ksars, (a ksar is a Berber granary). It was built to store and protect barley, wheat, and olive oil. The ksar is made of stone, gypsum, and mud and built of overlapping vaults stacked on top of each other.
It was also used as a movie set for Star Wars 1 – The Phantom Menace.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon: Visit the desert village of Chenini, perched on the top of a dizzying ridge, and one of
the few Berber-speaking villages still inhabited.
After that depart to Tataouine, one of the most picturesque cities of the South-East. Tataouine is surrounded by ksars and fortresses jutting out of the mountain, once used to store food essentials such as cereals, olive oil and dried fruit away from the enemy.
Dinner and overnight at Hotel Sangho Privilege in Tataouine.
Day 9: Wednesday 11 March: Tataouine -Gabès- El-Jem – Sousse
Breakfast at the hotel.
8am Check out of the hotel
Proceed to El Jem. On the way, stop for short visit the local market or souq in Gabès, where locals sell fruit and vegetables, spices, dried fish and mounds of green henna, for which the city is renowned.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon: Arrive El Jem, city which is known in Punic and Roman times as Thysdrus. Visit the largest and most spectacular Roman amphitheatre in North Africa and the best preserved in the world. (classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and visit the museum.
After that, drive to the city of Sousse. Sousse is Tunisia’s third largest city, known for its seaside resort (Marina) of Port El Kantaoui.
Dinner and overnight at Hotel Concorde Green Park Palace, Sousse.
Day 10: Thursday 12 March: Sousse – Tunis Carthage International airport
Breakfast at the hotel.
10am Check out of the hotel. Depart to Tunis Carthage International airport (150 km)
2pm Arrive at Tunis Carthage International airport, check in at Turkish Airlines counter.
4.35pm Depart Tunis for Istanbul by TK 664.
9.35pm Arrive at Istanbul International Airport, transit for flight to Bangkok.
Day 11: Friday 13 March: Bangkok
1.50am Depart Istanbul for Bangkok by TK68
3.10pm Arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The Siam Society reserves the right to change the program as necessary.


THB 79,000 (THB 82,500 for non-members). Single room surcharge THB 14,000. A deposit of THB 30,000 and photocopy of passport must accompany the booking. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the deposit has been made. Payment in full is required 60 days before the start of the trip (i.e. by Friday 3 January 2020).

Please pay by cash or cheque payable to ‘The Siam Society’. There is a 4% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Alternatively, you can deposit/transfer the money to the Siam Society travel account at the TMB Bank, Asoke Branch saving account no. 053-2-18000-7. Please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us. In case the tour must be cancelled due to insufficient participants, a full refund of the deposit will be made.


The contribution includes meals as mentioned in program, accommodation for two persons per room, entrance fees, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. It excludes visa fee (if any), airfares, personal expenses, personal beverages, etc.

Airfares are not included in the price, but for those who would like us to book their tickets, it can be arranged at the time of booking.

To comply with payment and cancellation policies set forth by tour agencies, and to facilitate smooth working condition between the Siam Society and the tour agencies, please read carefully the revised cancellation policies stated below:

Cancellation charge:

60 days before the start of the trip:                             Deposit forfeited
60–30 days before the start of the trip:                      50% of the tour cost
Less than 30 days or cancellation without notice:      No refund

Your booking will not be confirmed until deposit payment has been received. Please book your place as soon as possible. Please supply a copy of your passport with your booking.

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary. Seats are limited. Please book your place as soon as possible. For further information and bookings please contact Khun Prasert or Khun Supanut.

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