Roua Khlifi a regular Travel and Culture contributor in Tunis.

  • Tabarka, home to coral reefs and music festivals in Tunisia’s north-west, On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Exhibition sheds light on legacy of Tunisia’s beys, On: Sun, 11 Dec 2016

  • Carthage Theatre Days delivers Arab, African performances in Tunisia, On: Sun, 04 Dec 2016

  • Tradition of falconry struggles against neglect in Tunisia, On: Sun, 20 Nov 2016

  • Bizerte — A Phoenician port city and a Tunisian liberation symbol, On: Sun, 20 Nov 2016

  • Carthage Film Festival celebrates Arab and African cinema, On: Sun, 13 Nov 2016

  • Making room for art at a Tunis school, On: Sun, 06 Nov 2016

  • Zembra and Zembretta, Tunisia’s mystery islands, On: Sun, 23 Oct 2016

  • EL Seed’s calligraffiti adorns walls in Tunisia and the world, On: Sun, 02 Oct 2016

  • Kerkennah, the islands where inhabitants own parts of the sea, On: Sun, 11 Sep 2016

  • The fight for women’s rights continues in Tunisia, On: Sun, 21 Aug 2016

  • Kelibia hosts Tunisian amateur film festival, On: Sun, 21 Aug 2016

  • The night train to El Jem’s magical shows, On: Sun, 31 Jul 2016

  • Ifriqiyya Electrique: When electric guitars meet Sufi music, On: Sun, 24 Jul 2016

  • Saida Manoubia, Tunisia’s only female Sufi saint, attracts followers, On: Sun, 17 Jul 2016

  • Carthage exhibition makes history accessible to youth, On: Sun, 03 Jul 2016

  • The Zitouna mosque, a landmark of Tunisia and Islamic history, On: Sun, 26 Jun 2016

  • Role reversal in film imagines Tunisia as safe haven for migrants, On: Sun, 05 Jun 2016

  • Struggling for the rights of religious minorities in an Arab land , On: Sun, 29 May 2016

  • When inmates become film-makers , On: Sun, 15 May 2016

  • Festivals celebrate the art of dance in Tunisia , On: Sun, 08 May 2016

  • Medical tourism operators attempt to salvage business despite European decline, On: Fri, 08 Apr 2016

  • Zaghouan: Where the Temple of Water and Andalusian heritage meet, On: Fri, 08 Apr 2016

  • The Arabic-German rap song about Tunisia’s woes, On: Fri, 11 Mar 2016

  • Keeping track of women’s gains and challenges, On: Fri, 04 Mar 2016

  • El Kef, Tunisia’s mountainous town with a view, On: Fri, 04 Mar 2016

  • Tunisian film wins awards at Berlin festival, On: Fri, 26 Feb 2016

  • As they celebrate slavery abolition anniversary, Tunisians fight racism, On: Fri, 12 Feb 2016

  • Majestic Roman amphitheatre stands out in Tunisia’s El Djem, On: Fri, 22 Jan 2016

  • Star Wars fans in Tunisia mobilise to save film sets, On: Fri, 08 Jan 2016

  • The splendour of Carthage provides inspiration, On: Fri, 08 Jan 2016

  • Controversial Moroccan film Much Loved attracts crowds, wins Carthage festival award, On: Fri, 11 Dec 2015

  • When art beats terror, On: Fri, 04 Dec 2015

  • Lassaad Ben Abdallah’s theatrical vision, On: Fri, 06 Nov 2015

  • The unique vistas of Tunisia’s Sidi Bou Said , On: Fri, 06 Nov 2015

  • Carthage festival showcases vibrancy of theatre, On: Fri, 23 Oct 2015

  • Saving Tunis’s old city bookshops, On: Fri, 09 Oct 2015

  • Tunisian film director revisits Romeo and Juliet, On: Fri, 02 Oct 2015

  • Going back to school a challenge to Tunisian families, On: Fri, 25 Sep 2015

  • Tabarka, home to coral reefs and music festivals in Tunisia’s north-west

    Only 175km north-west of Tunis, Tabarka is a charming coastal town with exotic air.

    A boat leaving the port of Tabarka

    2017/01/08 Issue: 88 Page: 24

    Tabarka - Tabarka’s locals advise visitors to start at Maal­oula — the Crocodile’s Head Hill. Children say the crocodile-shaped hill protects the town. An ancient leg­end — still popular among the el­derly and children — recounts that Tabarka was a refuge of a Roman god that was hunted by other dei­ties for marrying a human.

    Escaping his demise, the Roman god settled along with his family in Tabarka, a coastal Tunisian town along the Algerian border overlook­ing the Mediterranean Sea.

    Only 175km north-west of Tunis, Tabarka is a charming coastal town with an exotic air and shrouded with mystery. The vista includes lustrous beaches, green forests and mysterious mountains. The town is famous for its landscape, with a combination of mountains and the sea, providing a rich environment for ecological tourism.

    “Tourists who come to this re­gion get to discover the lifestyle, the traditions and the local dishes as they are immediately immersed in the town. It is an opportunity to discover the region through its peo­ple’s own way of living,” said Adel Selmi, founder of Purenature, an ecotourism tour project.

    “The region is rich with forests. Locals have a rich culture that could be of great wealth to visitors. It contains different hiking trails of­fering hikers many choices of ad­ventures.”

    With its own international airport, Tabarka boasts 21 hotels that can ac­commodate up to 6,000 guests. Vis­itors can enjoy diving with one of its three diving clubs and explore the beauty of the reefs and coral. The town offers hiking trails and two thermal therapy stations.

    Tabarka, which dates back some 2,800 years, is not only a haven for nature lovers. It also has a rich his­tory spanning a myriad of civilisa­tions, including Roman, Phoeni­cian, Arabic and Turkish.

    Among the town’s hallmarks is the historic Genoese castle, built on an offshore rock. The fort was the home of the Tabarquinis, coral fishers who fled Italy and settled on the island.

    “In 1537, during the time of Otto­man ruler Hayreddin Barbarossa, sailors from Genoa kidnapped his right-hand man, Dargut. The Lo­mellini family intervened to release him and as a reward, Barbarossa gave the Lomellini family the small island attached to the mainland of Tabarka. The place became a port from which they could transport the coral of Tabarka to Italy. They built the fort that still stands today,” Selmi said.

    “The ruling family of Lomellini lived in the fort for 200 years along with 1,800 sailors and came to be known as the civilisation of the Tabarquinis. They brought artisans to work on the coral. In 1740, the king of France wanted to buy the island but Ahmed Pacha, the bey of Tunis, sent troops to reclaim the is­land and captured the people of the fort. Some settled in Tunisia and others fled to Italy where they built the new Tabarka as they called it,” Selmi added.

    In addition to the fort, the rock pinnacles of Tabarka are not to be missed. Soaring 25 metres of height, the needles of ochre-coloured rock were sculpted by wind and water over millennia. Past the rock pin­nacle, stands the Tabarka Basilica on the remains of a fourth-century cistern that was rendered into a three-aisled church during the rule of Christians.

    Tabarka contains a wealth of cor­al used in making jewellery. Fishing coral is a vital local activity and the town’s artisan shops abound with an array of beautiful coral-based jewellery.

    The town is also famous for musi­cal festivals, including the Interna­tional Festival of Jazz, Latin Music Festival and Tabarka Rai Festival.

    “This year’s edition of the jazz festival attracted tourists and Tu­nisians in great numbers. In a way, these festivals made the town a centre for culture,” said Mounir Mlaouhi, general secretary of the committee organising the jazz festi­val and treasurer of the Association of Ecotourism and Artisanal Fish­ing of Tabarka.

    “Tabarka offers visitors a vari­ety of musical genres ranging from jazz, samba, blues, to soul and other genres that people now await impatiently. Tunisians, Algerians and tourists danced to the sound of music all throughout the festival.”

    Taking place in summer at the ba­silica of Tabarka, the festival, first organised in 1973, hosted many in­ternationally renowned artists over the years, including Billy Paul, Bar­bara Hendricks, Kool and the Gang, Diana Krall, Miles Davis, the Temp­tations and Al Di Meola.

    “Tabarka has an eclectic history, which contributed to its unique­ness. The festivals managed to pro­mote the image of a town that is open to other cultures, a town that celebrates through music,” Mlaouhi said.

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