Sousse as a Tunisian destination is one of those that I was most intrigued to visit, not because of any archaeological prominence instead I wanted to see how the once popular costal town looked after the beach terror attack of 2015. Now that Foreign Office travel restrictions had been lifted is there an infrasttruce in tact to welcome the return of potential tourists?
We struck gold with the hotel lottery in Sousse by staying at the Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa. With a beachfront location, the Mövenpick towers above the rest of the hotels, I had a room on the 8th floor with a spectacular sea view; when you stay in as many hotels as I do, it can be hard to wow me with hotel room views but the timeless classic of palm trees, pools and sparkling sea are a winning combo. Feast your eyes on this…
Countless pools (even a heated saltwater one!), a marine spa and triple height (minimum) entrance lobby all add to the grand atmosphere, yet it isn’t without a soul. The staff are some the friendliest I’ve encountered with nothing too much trouble. My only complaint about the Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa? I didn’t get to stay long enough 😉 There was a strong visible resort security presence which goes a long way in demonstrating Sousse’s commitment to reassuring tourists.
Tea on the balcony before we set off was one of those rare moments of true calm that week; our early start meant we were meandering the souks of Sousse whilst some of the traders were still setting up. It might be the Middle Eastern in me, but I find the souks and bazaars of North Africa and the Middle East a cultural treasure trove. For me it’t not about what I buy but what I experience. It’s a beautiful assault on the senses from the souvenirs stocked for the visitors, to the wedding shops and spice stalls frequented by the local community. I’m super comfortable with haggling but a top tip if you’re not is… sunglasses, sometimes a lack of eye contact can help stop you being drawn in to theatre of selling that is a daily performance in the souks and bazaars.
A visit to Sousse isn’t complete without a trip The UNESCO World Heritage Site that is The Medina of Sousse, dating back to the 9th Century AD making it one of the earliest constructions after the Islamic conquests in Maghreb. Its impressive walls stretch over 2km and in some places are as high as 8m and is regarded as one of the finest examples of a military coastal construction of the era architecturally.
Not content with being an impressive Medina inside you’ll discover the Sousse Archaeological Museum – where you’ll enjoy some great mosaics and statues many dating from the ancient Roman period including this fear inducing face of terror, Medusa.
There was also plenty good examples of the mosaics of Oceanus, God of the seas.
There was one marble statue that spoke to me and won my heart, not the biggest or the fanciest but the statue of chaste goddess Venus, accompanied by love from around the end of the second century AD is one of the most tender depictions of the relevance of emotion of the ancient Roman era.
To answer my question at the beginning of this post: Sousse is ready to welcome back British tourists but for more than just the fly and flop offering that we previously associated with the coastal destination. Just like the country as a whole, Sousse is deceptively vast not just geographically but in what it has to offer it’s visitors. Sousse is a destination for those who want to broaden their travel horizons whilst still returning to a 5* hotel like the Mövenpick each and every night, because life is good when there’s marble statues and pillow menus.
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Tunisian National Tourism Office for the duration of my stay in Tunisia.