Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tunisia: Cap Bon - Discovering Country's Ageless Seaside Heritage

Protruding like a curved finger into the sea, Cap Bon is one of the most idyllic regions in all of Tunisia.
The backbone of Cap Bon is the mountain of Sidi Abderrahmen, which marks the terminus of the Atlas Mountain range.
Nabeul Museum


Dar Sebastian

Kelibia Fort


Haouaria Caves

One of Tunisia's most fertile regions, Cap Bon receives more than 1000mm of precipitation annually. This part of Tunisia is famous for its citrus and tomato cultivation, more than 20% of which are exported to Europe and Asia.
Driving on the A1 highway, before reaching Hammamet, vineyards and wine factories can be seen. Grombalia and Bou Argoub are the main centers of Tunisian wine production.
Hammamet - its name means baths or springs - is one of the biggest touristic resorts in Tunisia. Surrounded by numerous springs - such as Sidi Jedidi Hammam, Hammam Laghzez, and many others - it was once a small fishing village.
However, in 1920 Georges Sebastian, a Romanian millionaire, built a magnificent villa - Dar Sebastian - above the beach, and made Hammamet a destination favored by artists and writers. It eventually became the rival of Sidi Bou Saidas an attraction to artists and the wealthy between the 1920â-'s and 1940â-'s. Following the wave of artists, numerous politicians came to Hammamet during World War II. Churchill is said to have wrote a substantial portion of his memoirs in this coastal city.
Today, Dar Sebastian is a cultural center used to host festivals and artistic exhibitions. The entrance fee is five dinars - or $3.50.
Continuing along the same road, leading to downtown Hammamet, a citadel can be seen. The fortress was constructed by the Arabs in the ninth century and subsequently renovated in the fifteenth century. Under Ottoman rule, it was renovated yet again to accommodate cannonsto defend the settlement. In 1881, the French began using the structure as a barracks.
The fort is also open to visitors for a fee of 5TDN and an additional 1TND for a camera ticket.
Nabeul, 17 km northeast from Hammamet, is the capital of Cap Bon and home to the most famous pottery factories in Tunisia. Downtown workshops are open for visitors, and workers often display their expertise in shaping the clay into vases. The weekly market opens on Friday, and many travel agencies organize half day tours to Nabeul or whole-day excursions around a number of locations in Cap Bon.
In spite of its small size, the archaeological museum of Nabeul is rich in antiquity, collected from the ruins of Neapolis - the site upon which the modern city of Nabeul was founded. The collection consists of mosaics depicting themes based on Greek and Roman mythology and statues exhumed from among the ruins.
Driving through Korba and Menzel Temim, Kelibia can be reached - one of the most beautiful sand beaches not only in Tunisia but in the southern basin of the Mediterranean Sea. This village - once known by the Greeks and Romans as Aspis and Clupea respectively (meaning shield in both languages) - derives its name from an impressive promontory shaped like a shield.
The fort of Kelibia, a massive building protected by thick walls, is the biggest in Tunisia, and built on a 150m high bluff overlooking the sea. Although most of the building dates back to the sixteenth century, some older Roman sections can still be seen. The entrance fee to the site is 5TND, and an extra 1TND for a camera ticket.
Cap Bon is also home to one of the most unique Punic sites on the Mediterranean sea - Kerkouane - which has been designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Kerkouane, was initially a Berber settlement influenced by the Punic and Mediterranean culture thanks to the trade networks established in the sixth century BC. However, the city was destroyed in the third century BC, and was never inhabited again.
Since its discovery in 1950â-'s, the evidence of Punic culture has become more and more clear. The site layout features luxurious houses, temples, and public squares. Kerkouane is an arbitrary name given by the archaeologists due to the absence of an inscription bearing the original name of the city. On the right of the site's main entrance a small museum houses pottery, jewelry, and other items that evoke the daily life of the town's former inhabitants. Managed by the Ministry of Culture, the entrance fee is 5TND, and an additional 1TND camera ticket.
Stopping for lunch in Haouaria is highly recommended for any traveler exploring Cap Bon. Many reasonably priced restaurants, typically specializing in fish, are situated along the edge of the hillsides. The village is famous for its caves, used as quarries for material to construct Roman Carthage. Blocks of stone were cut from the hill and shipped by vessels to the port of Carthage. Since 2006, the quarry has been closed to visitors, reducing the presence of tourists in the town.
Lunch in Haouaria also gives visitors the opportunity to admire the beauty of Tunisia's virgin shores. The island of Zembra - a national reserve for rare species of birds and aquatic fauna - can be viewed from land.
On the way back to Tunis, wind turbines can be seen before reaching a small tuna fishing village called Sidi Daoud. Here, a traditional method of tuna fishing is practiced known as the Matanza - or the slaughter. A net is place about 4km out to sea to catch the tuna as they migrate along their spawning route in May. Chambers formed by the net are used to catch the fish. When the chamber is filled, the tuna are forced to jump out of the water where they are met by knife wielding fisherman who have anticipated their arrival.
Driving to back Tunis, a beautiful thermal spring can be found, a favorite destination for Tunisians. The mineral springs are thought to be beneficial in the treatment of rheumatism.
Finally, the Moorish village of Soliman serves as suitable final destination for any Cap Bon tour. Founded in the seventeenth century, the town is famous for its two minarets, which can be seen from the main road. The octagonal minaret dates back to the site's former Ottoman community, which used to follow the Hanafite rite. The square minaret is used by the locals, who follow the Maleki rite.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Discover People's War

Nepal is bordered by India and China. Geographically, the country is very rich. It has the highest mountain on earth, The Everest Mountain. Besides the highest mountain, the country has more than 200 peaks over 6000 m above sea level. The soil is very fertile but unexploited.

The Federal Democratic of Nepal knew a 10 year conflict known as People's War. It was a conflict between the government and the Communist party (The Maoist). The latter wanted to establish a democratic state by overthrowing the monarchy that ruled for more than 240 years.

The conflict lasted ten years (1996-2006) ended with Comprehensive Peace Accord signature. In 2008 monarchism was abolished and a constitutional assembly was elected. The communist party won the majority of the seats. 

There are more than 7000 Nepalis residing in Qatar working in different fields. They have different opinions toward the conflict.

Next days, I will interview some Nepali residing in Qatar to know more about this conflict.

Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah; The last king of Nepal