The East Coast
Skanes Travel Guide
Tunisia © Dennis Jarvis
Skanes, with its beautiful and seemingly endless sandy beach, is a suburb of the Tunisian Mediterranean port town of Monastir. The town has happily given itself up as a tourist Mecca, centred on a modern marina and a revamped Medina crammed with souvenir shops and restaurants. Even its ancient Ribat (fort) has been rebuilt and glamorised by being used as the setting for several movies like Monty Python's Life of Brian, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The modern gilt on Monastir may be a little false, but underneath this historic city retains its ancient air of having been Tunisia's holiest place, and an important strategic stronghold that was even once used as a base by Julius Caesar. Just a few miles from the centre of Monastir lies the extravagant stretch of grand hotels that have been built along the coast in the area known as Skanes. These magnificent architectural delights are set in acres of lush gardens, most of them encompassing their own patch of well-maintained sandy beach.
The Skanes hotels are well connected to Monastir and other nearby resort towns, like Sousse, by a tourist road train and a plethora of cheap taxis. Monastir also has the advantage of having its own international airport. Parasols mushroom on the beaches in between watersports equipment stands and local vendors parading with a variety of wares, particularly pottery.
Like everywhere in Tunisia a great deal of fun can be had haggling for bargains in the local medina. Monastir and Skanes are also well supplied with modern shopping centres catering to tourist needs.
In Skanes itself most dining is confined to the hotel restaurants geared towards holidaymakers, but those wanting a change of eating venue are spoilt for choice in nearby Monastir, particularly around the marina and its adjacent shopping centre. Here, restaurants, cafes, pizza parlours and snack bars abound. Most of these establishments are aimed at European tastes and alcohol is served. Many even happily accept Euros in payment. Those wanting to try genuine local fare can head for the back alleys where spicy dishes are served up with unleavened bread but no accompanying wine list, at rock bottom prices.
Holidaymakers will find that the nightlife in Skanes mainly centres on live entertainment and dancing provided 'in house' by the various hotels.
There is no need to move off the hotel beach to have an action-packed holiday in Skanes, with a wide variety of watersports on offer from jet skiing to paragliding. Those needing a break from the sun, however, will find plenty of interest in exploring the 8th-century Ribat, or fort, in Monastir, which houses an interesting museum containing a collection of ancient Islamic fabrics, pottery and other artefacts.
Also worth a visit is the mausoleum of Habib Bourgiba, the first president of Tunisia, with its magnificent gilded dome. Most visitors enjoy a cruise in a felucca (sailing ship) or a camel safari into the local countryside. Golfers are in seventh heaven with a choice between the renowned Palm Links and Flamingo 18-hole courses.
Vendors and shopkeepers often pester tourists to buy their wares. There is little for children to do apart from enjoying the sandy beaches.