Sometimes you don’t know how much you need to get away and experience a change of scenery until you arrive somewhere new.

That’s exactly how we—Alex, the photographer who accompanied me, and I—felt when we arrived in the bustling city of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, late last year. As soon as we stepped off the plane, the buzzy, friendly Maghrebian (a term used in reference to the Arab people of the western part of North Africa) energy was evident—our first experience of the warm hospitality that would set the tone for our time there. Built around the ancient city of Carthage, Tunis is a cosmopolitan city that was once one of the most important strategic coastal hubs of the Roman empire—and it was also the perfect place for us to start our adventure.

Ancient sculptures in the ruins of Carthage, in Tunis. (Alex Black)

We headed to Sidi Bou Saïd, a small artistic town perched on a cliff above the azure sea just a short drive east of Tunis. The former fishing village is known for its blue-and-white Grecian buildings, an aesthetic that accounts for the protected status it has enjoyed since 1915, and its 13th-century cobblestoned alleys are filled with ceramics merchants, cafés and art galleries. Orange blossoms, bougainvillea and jasmine scented the soft breeze as we strolled past a mix of both Andalusian and Ottoman architecture and design—handcrafted wooden doorways, patterned mosaic tiling, impressive arches and ornate stucco.

A typical house entrance in the quaint town of Sidi Bou Saïd. (Alex Black)

Next, we made our way south to Kairouan, a UNESCO protected holy city that’s rich with Islamic heritage, as evidenced by mosques with impressive antique marble columns, complex plasterwork and vibrant ceramic tiles. We roamed around the bustling souk (a term for an Arab marketplace), engaging with gracious and convivial merchants and admiring the handcrafted rugs and leather goods the city is known for and that it exports around the country. To refresh and refuel, we sat in the sun at one of the medina’s tucked-away family-run cafés; their specialties are mint tea, Arabic coffee and local delicacies like zlebia and makroudh, delicious pastries with alluring aromas.

A mosaic dome and its blue doors in Kairouan. (Alex Black)

Our final stop—which was well worth the six-hour drive—was the oasis of Tozeur. Nestled amid luscious palm-tree-dotted mountains, breathtaking waterfalls, giant sand dunes and wide canyons, this desert city is filled with an array of date, citrus, peach and fig trees, the fruits of which are plucked and eaten or turned into essential oils and perfumes for tourists to take home. The architecture takes a different turn here, with a mix of traditional sand-coloured kiln-baked bricks, terracotta and palm-wood beams. The aesthetic of the Berbers (an ethnic group that’s indigenous to North Africa) dominates here and transports you to ancient times.


Mabrouka Fall, a local model, posing in front of a pool in Tozeur. (Alex Black)

We ended this spectacular trip with a visit to the middle of the Sahara. The peace that the seemingly infinite space this vast desert landscape offers is quite possibly the most beautiful one can experience and exactly what we needed after the past couple of years. As the sun shifted throughout the day, the dunes were painted in an array of ever-changing shades of beige and orange. Just before dusk, the earth beneath us started to turn a deep shade of blue—the land seeming to physically change right before our eyes as the sun set. The desert is also known for its breathtaking sunrises, so on our last morning there, we woke early to watch one, its energy and light feeding our souls and creating a lifelong memory.



Photo courtesy of Anatara Sahara Tozeur Resort & Villas


Tozeur is the luxury desert destination in Tunisia, and no other hotel in the region compares to the breathtaking Anantara  Sahara Tozeur Resort & Villas, a sanctuary with 93 luxe villas and rooms. Whether you want to bask by the pool with its desert view, dine on fine cuisine by the fire or indulge in an ancient cleansing ritual in the hammam, this is the spot for you. It is also constantly buzzing with fun takeovers, such as Tunis Fashion Week—a celebration of Tunisia’s most groundbreaking fashion designers—which we had the pleasure of attending while visiting the resort.