Kairouan, Tunisia

photo: An arched gateway of sand-coloured brickwork, atop which is a dome.
One of the gates into the Great Mosque.

Despite the attractions of Kairouan, we were somewhat distracted by some of the locals. A man we asked for directions led us completely the wrong way and then got aggressive when we wouldn't pay him anything; an agent for a nearby shop pretended to be a museum official to lure us into a shop selling a range of rugs; and the local children were making hostile gestures at us.

photo: A wall whose lower part is tiled decoratively, and whose upper part is engraved finely.
The Zaouia of Sidi Abid el Ghariani is exquisitely detailed.

Tourist traps aside, Kairouan's medina does have plenty to see. Of many mosques in Kairouan, The Great Mosque is the most famous. It is simple in appearance and grand in scale. Not too far away is the much smaller Mosque of Three Doors. Also in the medina is the Zaouia of Sidi Abid el Ghariani, which is impressively detailed and worth seeing.

We stayed at the Hotel Sabra, just outside the medina, in a fourth-floor room that overlooked one of the medina entrances. The hotelier was very friendly, and didn't mind coming up four flights of stairs to show us numbskulls how to lock the room door. Similarly named, but unrelated to the hotel, the Restaurant Sabra is also located outside of the medina and provided us with a good meal.

Again we failed to travel to see ancient ruins, this time in a place called Dougga. None of the louage drivers wanted to travel to such an unprofitable location. Instead we went to the post office and learnt that queuing does not exist in any form in Kairouan. You simply bundle into a great mass of people and do everything you can to get to the service windows. Hailing a taxi is similar. Several times we made way for an old lady who wanted a taxi, only to see a local man push past her and get into the taxi himself.