Tunisia: travel books to read before you go


This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Tunisia guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

There’s little travel writing on Tunisia in English, but what there is often captures a particular epoch, provides fascinating cultural insights, and is hugely entertaining.

The MuqadimmahIbn Khaldun was a prolific 14th-century Tunisian scholar and statesman whose North African travels informed his remarkably accessible Muqaddimah, which is peppered with sharp and sympathetic observations.

The Cave DwellersDaniel Bruun lived with the Berber people in Matmata during 1898, and his The Cave Dwellers of Southern Tunisia: Recollections of a Sojourn with the Khalifa of Matmata is a window on a forgotten world, painting an idiosyncratic portrait of Berber Tunisia before the tourists arrived.

TunisTunis, Kairouan & Carthage, by Graham Petrie, who wrote in the early years of the last century, describes the major classical sights, as well as looking at the birth of modern tourism; the title was recently reissued, so is easy to find, and has a number of colour prints of the author’s excellent watercolours.

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The Pillars of HerculesPaul Theroux’s The Pillars of Hercules (1996) contains a frustratingly brief chapter on Tunisia; he amusingly describes an encounter with a carpet tout as well as visits to Sfax and the Kerkennah Islands.

SaharaLess grumpy than Theroux, Michael Palin covers Jerba, Matmata, El-Jem, Sousse and Sidi Bou Saïd in his more entertaining than in-depth Sahara (2005), and revisits some Monty Python’s Life of Brian movie sets.

Mediterranean WinterRobert D Kaplan’s Mediterranean Winter (2004) is the tale of an offseason Mediterranean journey beginning in Tunisia; the rich, detailed reveries will appeal to history buffs.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.