The AFAR Guide to Tunisia
Tunisia, once home to the ancient Carthaginian Empire, has seen several other empires sweep through since antiquity, with the Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and French all having governed there. Since the end of French colonial rule in 1956, Tunisia has been among the most progressive states in the Arab world, led from 1957-1987 by the secular leader Habib Bourguiba. His successor, Zine Al-abidine Ben Ali, fled in 2011 due to widespread political unrest that later became known as the Arab Spring.

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Carpets in Kairouan

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Sit down! Have some tea! More tea! Rest your feet! The carpet sellers in Kairouan are all about your comfort… until it’s time for you to exit; then the pressure is on. Though it takes a dogged persistence not to give in to their sales tactics, it’s still worth stepping into one of these shops to watch a parade of beautiful carpets be unrolled before you. You are led past a Berber woman slowly tying the threads on a loom and told how long it takes her to laboriously make a carpet as you watch her hands move slowly, carefully. Having seen women in China use the same technique and work about 980 times faster, I knew this was a piece of salesmanship. If you are to buy one, stick to your bargaining skills! But don’t forego the experience of a carpet house.

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