Tuesday 6 December 2016

I fell in love with the people - but I won't be returning

Culture of kisses has been overshadowed by bloodbath on the very beach where I swam, says Carol Hunt who won't holiday there now

Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30

HOME SAFE: Elizebeth O Brien is hugged by a relative at Dublin airport after arriving home from Tunisia on Friday
HOME SAFE: Elizebeth O Brien is hugged by a relative at Dublin airport after arriving home from Tunisia on Friday

Last summer I wrote a travel piece on the wonders of Tunisia. It was titled: "Discovering culture and kisses in a sun-soaked land of Kaboul-mania". The culture is self evident, Jewish, Roman, European and African heritage; the kisses come from the Tunisian tradition of kissing a friend so many times on each cheek depending on how long it's been since they last met (I counted up to ten between two women) and the "Karboul-mania" described the adoration that so many Tunisians had for their new, young, female, Minister for Tourism, Amel Karboul.

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Tunisia was where the Arab Spring had started during the "Jasmine Revolution. Proudly people told me that "Tunisia is very different from other Arab cultures", some insisting that the wry self-deprecating humour and easy-going tolerance of the locals likened them to the Irish, their favourite visitors, they said.

Our guide was loquacious and witty, informing us that Tunisians are more sexually liberated than any other Arab people; that young people here usually live together before marriage and that girls can get their driving licence two years before their male counterparts because, "women are safer drivers". When I got home I wrote, "Tunisia is a gem; a warm, light-hearted, easy-going, culture-sodden and sun-drenched heaven that lies only a few hours from Dublin Airport." I wasn't lying or even exaggerating. Which is why last Wednesday, after multiple entreaties from my white-faced children, I began to check sun holidays to Sousse this coming August. Sousse because last year I had stayed at the El Mouradi Palm Marina hotel and it had everything one could possibly need for an amazing family holiday at good prices. Also, if we were lucky, myself and my 11-year-old Star Wars fan would also be able to visit some of the sites of the Star Wars films, four of which were filmed in laid-back Tunisia.

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