Tunisia © Dennis Jarvis
Old and new, exotic and traditional, the captivating North African country of Tunisia sits at the heart of the Mediterranean, caught in a cleft between Algeria and Libya, offering the world's travellers some sumptuous modern seaside resorts set side by side with a treasure trove of ancient Roman, Arab, Berber and Phoenician sites.
Just a few miles north of the capital, Tunis, lie the remains of the legendary ancient city of Carthage, founded in the 8th century BC. By contrast Tunis is a hustling, bustling modern metropolis where steel, glass and palm trees form the backdrop to streets filled with fast-moving yellow taxis. In the heart of this surprisingly pristine city, however, the centuries slip away in the medieval Medina, a haven for souvenir hunters with hundreds of narrow streets crammed with vendors of antiques, jewellery, pottery, carpets, perfumes, dried fruit, books, spices and many other delights. Also, no tourist to the city should miss a visit to the Bardo Museum, for the joy of viewing one of the world's greatest collections of Roman mosaics.
Tunisia has a thousand miles of coastline to the north, where luxurious resorts like Hammamet and Nabeul nestle amid citrus orchards. Vacationers relish the sandy beaches and crystalline waters along the waterfront, where the only alternative to lazy bronzing is to indulge in a round of golf or take the plunge with some watersports.
Those intrepid enough to venture into the south, on the threshold of the Sahara desert, will be rewarded with some interesting geographical features like the 'forest in the desert' at Ramada, the dry salt lake at Chott el Jerid, or the remote 'end of the road' oasis at Ksar Ghilane.
The cherry on the top for visitors to this affordable and exotic holiday destination is the warmth and genuine friendliness of the Tunisian people. This is evident in even the smallest of villages, where if you happen to pass through during one of the numerous summer festivals you will be welcomed, urged to join in and find yourself dancing and sharing a cup of tea.
Although recent political upheaval has kept Tunisia on the front page rather than in the travel section, the country has made the transition to democracy smoothly and is once again welcoming tourists and cruise ships to its shores.