Hammamet is probably the most famous resort in Tunisia. In the 1920’s, a Romanian millionaire had built here an impressive residence and the rich Europeans started to visit the town. Currently, there are over 100 hotels here!
Hammamet-Yasmine – the most modern part of the city, is roughly 10 km away from the centre. It consists, as a matter of fact, entirely of the hotels. A wide promenade is running along the beach – Boulevard of November 7th 1987. The name commemorates the date of the bloodless coup during which Zin Al-Abidin Ben Ali became the second president in the history of Tunisia.
Just where the boulevard has its start, there is a post office, a bank, cash machines and the cheapest grocer’s in the neighbourhood which is also the only one where you can buy alcohol. A little bit farther there is a funfair and an imitation of medina built several years ago. There are also homely pubs, souvenir shops, camels on which you can be photographed and many other attractions. All these things for the tourists who can spend their money here without troubling themselves to visit the centre!
When I was visiting Tunisia, I happened for the first time to stay in the hotel where you have your time already fixed up. The whole day is planned; water gymnastics at noon, 1 P.M. water-polo, 1:30 P.M. we play darts and so on. Everything announced in Czech, Polish, English and French of course. I’ve always thought that a hotel is a stopover on the way to one’s destination; apparently it can be a destination itself. I bet there are some people who did not walk away from the hotel at least 500 metres or even bathe in the sea!
In the evening there is a minidisco for kids and later some entertainment for adults. This kind of attractions is of course in almost every hotel. It’s 9 P.M.; you go out on the balcony to relish cool air and have a guess which noise we make and which one is generated by people from the hotel nearby :). You can also close a window or take a walk in a harbour. While sauntering, you can admire some 500 yachts that are moored here.
Hammamet extends along the beautiful sandy beach washed over by incredibly blue sea. Sometimes, however, you can read that in about December algae are washed ashore... supposedly they are healthy... but being exposed to sunlight they give off unpleasant smell and spoil the view. Fortunately it lasts a couple of days at the most and quickly decreases in intensity.
When we get bored with walking among Hammamet Yasmine hotels, we can go to Medina. Medina simply means the old city. You can get there by bus or taxi. Considering prices and comfort, a cab is the best solution. A ride from Hammamet Yasmine to Hammamet Medina costs 5 dinars (4$). Obviously you must haggle, otherwise you pay more. And now, a short course on how to deal with the taxi drivers. By the way – you must bargain before you get into a cab, it is too late inside! The conversation goes much about like this:
Sometimes the driver will add that he has a taximeter or the fare is 8. Then we walk away politely and he screams he can go for 6. We still stick to 5! Either he takes us or will not bother. It is his choice; there is another cab next to him, at the worst we will go with the third driver. Just when he agrees we hand him 5 dinars. This way he cannot at the end of the ride excuse himself that he misunderstood and later claim more money. 3 dinars is not something big... but there is a great pleasure of knowing what a good business you have done!
We reached our destination – Hammamet Medina. In extremely narrow alleys there is an infinite number of stalls, shops and merchants who loudly encourage to buy their stuff. They do it in many languages, including Polish one, in words such as ‘za darmo’ or ‘chodź’. Sometimes, being proud they learned the nationality of the speaker, they sputter the stream of words:
Narrow alleys pose considerable hindrance when it comes to the sense of direction; you can only look up in the sky, there is no landmark by which you can orientate yourself! By accident, we reach a private museum! It is unthinkable in Poland but here, there it is – a real museum which is not subsidized by the state money, totally self-sufficient! On the roof, it is brilliant: low tables, cushions, something in the kind of a large tent that protects against the sun. You can get rest for a while and have something to drink. It was a long time before we could set off! At parting, a girl who let us in had put on us the orange oil :). The cost of the whole pleasure came to 5DT per capita. For children it is free of charge.
Beside there is a model of Medina which should give you some idea how much packed the buildings are. All of this is enclosed by the walls. You can also see the fort and, of course, the mosque.
I dissuade people, who do not have a sense of humour or a flair for haggling, from establishing an eye contact with the merchants :). You need to have a special attitude, bearing in mind that it is only a kind of a game and you should not take everything seriously! As I have mentioned before, everyone persuades us to buy something at his or her stall. You caught sight of a cool drum and you want to know how much it costs? There is no way someone will tell you! You are invited to the back of the stall, with all your family and a cart (it is more difficult to run!). The scene goes much about like this:
As you can notice, the price can be pushed up tenfold! From my experience, it follows that if you bought something, you definitely paid too much! They do not make poor deals. I think the only method is to give a ridiculously low price and leave. If the seller does not chase you, it means it would be a good price. By the next one, if need be, you can raise it and in this way buy the stuff without overpaying too much :).
Some people are scared to death when it comes to haggling and they go straight away to the shop where it says FIXED PRICE. In theory, the prices are fixed there but if it is not a large shop and you are talking with its owner, you can knock the price down by 30%! Believe me, you can become addicted to it! After my return I was bargaining over a cheaper ticket in front of the kiosk!
Kids are virtually running everywhere selling bouquets of jasmine. Sometimes (girls in particular) they can argue for a customer before his or her very eyes! In general they are nice, although they happen to be pushy or even rude! If, for example, a seller calls my wife a witch with the soft smile on his or her face, it is funny. But when a little punk shouts FUCK YOU! behind your back, that is another matter. You have to bear in mind, however, that this is the tourist place and we are dealing here with the customs that are running wild :), mainly due to the impact of the tourists.
The school year has just begun. Children wear uniforms; the youngest girls are clad in pink ones, the older in navy blue. And in this unpleasant, school overtone I finish my mini-guidebook on Hammamet.
Stan na rok 2008.