Tunisia Shopping and Districts
(Tunisia, TN, North Africa)
Tunisia is a great place to visit if you want to supplement sightseeing and sunbathing with a spot of shopping. Local handcrafted goods make ideal souvenirs and can be found in abundance in Tunisia's plentiful medinas, souks (markets) and craft centres. In fact, you can take home everything from birdcages to carpets.
In the biggest cities, there are also commercial centres. These include many of the better known larger stores and supermarkets. Although prices tend to be higher than elsewhere, these stores are useful for buying everyday items and groceries or fancy shopping in more familiar surroundings.
When to Shop / Opening Hours
Whilst shop opening hours tend to vary, most stores open from Monday to Saturday at around 09:00. During the summer, when temperatures are at their hottest, many shops change their opening hours to accommodate, closing after lunch and reopening from 16:30 onwards.
Where to Shop
All the major cities in Tunisia boast modern shopping centres. These may lack local colour and atmosphere, however, if you are not in the mood for haggling and want to enjoy a spot of price-fixed retail therapy instead, they make for a more relaxed shopping experience. In Tunis, there are two hypermarkets, while in Sousse, there is the Soula Shopping Centre. Nabeul also has several supermarkets, including Monoprix.
Tunisia's many medina quarters offer the opportunity to sightsee and shop all at the same time. They are usually packed with shops selling handcrafted souvenirs and small traditional-type outlets. Prospective buyers are expected to haggle. Typical souvenirs include stone roses - a fascinating product of the Sahara Desert, as well as Touareg jewellery, Berber mats and embroidered sandals.
Many cities are home to cooperatives or arts centres that sell handcrafted products at fixed prices. In Tunis, Hanout Arab offers textiles, jewellery and pottery. Mains des Femmes sells rugs and blankets made by local women's cooperatives. It is also worth having a look around state-owned shops, which operate under the regulations of the National Handicraft Office. They give a good indication of the sort of price you can expect to pay for something. This can be extremely useful when you are haggling for a bargain.
Tunisia has lots of lively markets, or souks, that sell a wide variety of goods, ranging from pottery to perfumes. The central market of Tunis dates back to the 19th century. Today, it is a fascinating place to visit, redolent with the smells and sounds of North Africa. You can always find a good selection of bread, spices, cheese, dried dates and vegetables here.
Outside of Tunis, local markets can be found all over the country. Sousse's main market is held every Sunday and sells classic Tunisian souvenirs, such as carpets, blankets, fabric, pottery and jewellery. It is always worth asking about local markets. These are often found on the outskirts of cities, such as Sousse, and offer a less tourist-oriented shopping experience.
Handcrafted goods vary from place to place. In Tozeur, for example, markets are piled high with locally made ceramics. Kairouan is the best place to head if you have a mind to return home with a carpet. Carpet making traditions and techniques can be seen at first hand at the Centre des Traditions et des Métiers d'Art here. Traditional Tunisian pottery is readily available in Nabeul, while lots of leather goods can be found all over Tunisia, including belts, jackets, shoes and bags, although the quality of finished items does vary widely.