Hammamet: Tunisia’s Jasmine City

source: HappyFamiliesOnline.com

Happy Families Magazine

Welcome to a little piece of paradise on the Mediterranean,” beams the Le Royal Hammamet website, “where manicured gardens, sandy beaches and Moorish architecture conspire to give you the ultimate hospitality and leisure experience.

The hotel certainly sits in a heavenly location. It lies directly on the beautiful blue beach of Yasmine Hammamet, just a short hop from the stunning marina, where nearby you’ll find the Medina, the Casino, the cultural centre and two verdant architect-designed golf clubs.

Le Royal Hammamet is part of the Le Royal Resorts & Hotels division of General Mediterranean Holding, the international group founded by British entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi. Like all GMH’s luxury five-star resorts, Le Royal offers its guests top-class facilities throughout.

There are four gorgeous outdoor swimming pools on the resort – two close to the private beach – and a covered heated pool. You can practise your strokes on one of the floodlit tennis courts and there are plenty of other energetic activities to try, such as beach volleyball, boccia, basketball, water polo, mini golf and archery. Various water sports are available, from pedal boating to water skiing, banana boat and jet ski, and you can also organise overland tours by camel, horse or 4×4.

Kids will have a great time at the Fun Club and amusement arcade, and after a hard day’s sunbathing the Shehrayar Nightclub is guaranteed to keep the adults entertained into the early hours.

The Royal Med Spa is “a great architectural success where the contemporary and baroque merge to create a wonderfully soothing atmosphere”, and here you can get first-class treatments and cures such as massages, body wraps and facials; it also has a lovely heated swimming pool, Turkish bath, well-equipped fitness centre and hair salon.

If you fancy a day out, many of Tunisia’s fascinating towns and cities, including the capital Tunis, are just a short bus or car ride away. El Djem is home to some of the most impressive Roman structures that still exist in Africa today. Almost the size of Rome’s Coliseum, a great amphitheatre looms dramatically over the horizon of olive trees; however, contrary to popular culture it was not used in the filming of either Ridley Scott’s epic Gladiator or Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Founded by a Phoenician princess, Carthage grew to become the capital of one of the world’s most influential ancient empires and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Good places to explore are the Salammbó Tophet, the Punic Harbour and the fascinating Roman and Palaeo-Christian Museum, as well as the archaeological park and the thermal baths of Antoninus Pius, the largest outside Rome.

Kairouan is the most sacred city in Tunisia and Islam’s fourth most important centre after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The 9th century Great Mosque of Uqba Ibn Nafi, covering a total area of over 9000m2, is a truly awe-inspiring structure.

Inside it contains 414 marble, granite and porphyry columns and the Muslim world’s oldest pulpit, with over 300 individually carved wooden pieces.

A waterfall of pretty houses cascades steeply down the streets of Sidi Bou Said and beckons visitors into its web of cobbled alleyways. The village quite takes your breath away with its white-washed walls and blue carved stone doorways, interrupted only by bursts of magenta bougainvillea. You will find plenty of little cafes and restaurants overlooking the gulf of Tunis as well as markets selling local crafts and pastries.

The International Cultural Centre of Hammamet, also known as Sebastian Villa, is an elegant white mansion in a stunning garden setting designed and built in typical Tunisian style by the Romanian millionaire George Sebastian between 1920 and 1932. Celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright described it as one of the most beautiful places he knew and in the summer months it hosts Hammamet’s annual International Cultural Festival, with entertainment ranging from classical theatre to Arabic music.

Tunisia’s National Bardo Museum is home to the country’s rich archaeological finds and is particularly renowned for its mosaics. Apart from the exhibitions of Islamic art and ceramics, the building itself is also of great architectural interest. The collections are housed in the old Beylical Palace, and its 18th and 19th century interior decorations are an intriguing combination of Hispano-Moresque and Ottoman Rococo.

The island of Djerba is known as “Land of the Lotus Eaters” because of its intensively cultivated farms. Dotted with palm, fig and olive trees, the island seems luxuriant in comparison to the mainland. Its traditional architecture includes a large number of white-washed mosques and renovated weaver workshops, and there are some exquisite sandy beaches. Take a picnic basket and some boukha.

For more information go to the official Tunisia tourist website www.cometotunisia.co.uk