I was very eager to see the city, explore the area and visit Medina, so we ordered a taxi straight after breakfast. The ride took about 10 minutes or so and did cost 5 Tunisian dinars (less than 2 euros).
When I was coming out from the car. I heard one local guy asking our driver which hotel we came from. And even though they spoke in Tunisian, I didn’t need a dictionary or translator to understand what they spoke about. I have read about this trick in the internet before coming to Tunisia, and I was waiting for it to happen.
That’s how it works: as soon as “the guy” gets an answer from a taxi driver, he quickly approaches you with the standard line “Hello, my name is … Do you remember me? I am the cook/ bartender/ waiter/ etc. in the hotel you stay in. I will help you, I can show you the best shops in Medina”, and so on and so forth. Some tourists start feeling bad and uncomfortable because they didn’t recognize the worker from their hotel and agree to follow him like an obedient sheep. The guy then takes you to the family store, where they offer you “a very good deal”. And you might actually end up buying something. I call it “milk the tourists” routine. So, if someone comes to you the same way, know that in 99.9% cases that man doesn’t work in the hotel you stay in and he has never seen you before. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
And then we entered Medina of Sousse…
First thing that popped up in my head when I saw Medina were two words: “picturesque” and “authentic”. Well, maybe also noisy, but mainly picturesque. It also reminded me of Disney movie Aladdin. If you check this posts’ cover photo, you might notice the resemblance. Even the market area looked similar.
Clothing, shoes, bags, ceramics, silver, home décor… My head was spinning with excitement! I think I would buy absolutely everything, if I had unlimited budget. So many unusual and interesting things. Most of which were unpractical and unnecessary but pretty. Very pretty. Even spices looked like an art object:
Sadly, I didn’t have unlimited budget and I could buy only those things that were on my shopping list. I made this list before coming to Tunisia and it contained a few specific items. Like leather sandals, postcards, maybe a leather bag if I find the right model, Tfal (green clay) shampoo, Tfal face mask, a couple of body oils, olive soap and a Desert rose crystal. Although as soon as I entered the woodcraft corner I completely forgot about my list. I mean look at these beautiful pieces!
All are handmade by this guy:
His name is Imed Gaied. He’s very nice, friendly and not that pushy comparing other salesmen. He offered us a more than reasonable price for wooden mortar and pestle. And gave me a wooden teaspoon as a gift. So sweet!
The only shopping rule in Tunisia is haggling. And you should always ask the price. Always! “How much? How much? How much?!”. Repeat the question till you get an answer. It’s a must. Also keep in mind that Medina salespersons usually don’t take “no” for an answer. I got an impression the word “no” doesn’t belong to their vocabulary, and when you say “no”, they probably hear “well, I’m not really sure, maybe you should try harder to sell me the thing I don’t really need”. And if you show even a slight interest, you are on the hook. My advice to all the travelers is to practice your poker face before coming to Tunisia, otherwise you might end up coming home with a much lighter wallet and too heavy bags filled with dozens of souvenirs and other useless stuff.
Another thing I should mention is expiration date. I’ve often seen some old products dusting on the shelves. And when you point it out to the staff, they take it away and put it back as soon as you left the shop. That is why it’s important to check the expiration date before purchasing makeup, skin and hair products, etc.
What else to see in Medina?
Ribat of Sousse is definitely first on the list.
Entrance fee 8 dinars (price in 2019), which is less than 3 euros.
Visiting tower is a must, in my opinion.
It’s not easy to get to the top, since this is the only entrance and exit:
Pretty narrow. And so are the stairs:
Is it worth the troubles? Hell yeah! Getting on the top of the tower might feel like a struggle but in the end you are rewarded with the incredible view. Best view Sousse has to offer, I may add.
You know what else you could do in Medina? Get lost on purpose! I’m serious. Exploring Medina non-touristic way is such an exciting and adventurous experience! Plus, I’ve seen so many beautiful spots while I was trying to find the way out.
There is no need to be afraid, people in Sousse are friendly and kind, they will help you if you only ask. And for a small fee they can even be your personal local guide, show you around and tell you stories of the city that you won’t read in Wikipedia or travel guides.
And if you’d ask me what my associations with the Medina quarter are, my answer would be… doors! I’ve never seen so many artistic doors in my life! So colorful, so unique. A piece of art on every corner. I was looking around with my jaw opened and making hundreds of photos like a mad photographer.
Hope you enjoyed it!