Avoid the temptation to purchase the "local color" of your trip at the airport gift shop and step into the magical labyrinths that are city markets. Practice your haggling and strap on that money belt as we profile some of the world's best.
One of the best travel decisions we've ever made was to forego the typical Mexico spring break for a far more cultural (and culture-shocking) one in Tunisia. And it only got better the further we went into the North African country, as prices dropped and hand-made carpets got more colorful. Speaking of carpets, we headed to one of the capitals of this industry: the city of Kairouan.
As the fourth most important city in Islam, Kairouan attracts its share of foreign visitors, and all are attracted to the vibrant market of the city in the walled-in medina. Here is the place to purchase hand-painted ceramics, glassware, and especially the meaning-laden carpet you've always dreamt of owning.
But don't neglect to don a headscarf (for the women) and visit the holy Mosque of Uqba right in the center; then you're 1/6 of the way to equalling a visit to Mecca (seven pilgrimmages to Kairouan equal one to Mecca). Chase the mosque visit with a few glasses of mint tea with pine nuts, and settle back on the carpeted banquettes of a cafe for an evening of lamb and hookah.
When it comes to lodging in Kairouan, no hotel scores higher on our list (or on Tripadvisor's) than the Hotel La Kasbah, a palatial structure complete with tiled bedrooms, a fabulous pool, and an unbeatable location within the medina. It, combined with the cheap market prices just outside, are perhaps the perfect excuse to flee the hustle and bustle of Tunis.
· Kairouan [WikiTravel]
· Kairouan Medina Review [Lonely Planet]
· Tunisia Travel Coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: Veronique DeBord]