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Diary of a travel writer: Refugees remind us of our privileged existence


The Tunisian tourist board decided to change my flight from Gatwick to Heathrow. So I have to make the trek by National Express from one airport to the other. The bus company charges £21.50, and £1 for using the credit card, which means you could fly to Dublin and back to Heathrow cheaper at the right time in a sale.

Thursday Night

The flight from Heathrow to Tunis is delayed and we wait two hours on the ground for the food to be loaded. When the food is served, it is a dishevelled and inedible chicken salad.

Later Thursday Night

Lines of people in the airport, waiting to board their planes back to Bangladesh, watch as the holidaymakers arrive.


Djerba is an island four times the size of Achill, filled with new five-star hotels ready for a tourist boom.

The Tunisians want us to tell our readers the country is safe, which it is. They want us to say Berber hospitality is alive and well, which it is. The problem is that it is empty. Tunisia's revolution was peaceful but it wiped out 80pc of its tourism.


The Hasdrubal Prestige Hotel is an eclectic building, with faux-minarets outside each of the labyrinthine suites.

My walk-in wardrobe is the size of a D2 apartment, the bath sits at the centre of a giant bathroom with chambers leading off to the toilet and showers and my balcony has a view on three sides.


Tunisia's new Tourism Minister Slim Chaker and a busload of journalists are travelling through southern Tunisia.

The police escort decides to take a short cut on a country road. The road is sandy and soon turns to scrub. For a few minutes the wheels of the bus are spinning on the open countryside, in the midnight darkness under a half moon.


I have written of my trip to a refugee camp on the border of Tunisia and Libya elsewhere in the Herald. Our group are horrified to see that some people at the border are swarming like voyeuristic flies around the refugees.


La Ghriba Synagogue claims to be one of the world's oldest, founded by wandering Jews 1,500 years ago when the second temple was destroyed.

They knew where to build because this is the spot when a stone magically fell from heaven to show them.


In Houmt Souk the stall holders are having a bad time. Tourists are scarce and the haggling is harder. Prices go up in the souk during a tourist shortage, not down.