Greater Tunis, Tunisia
Over the Easter break, I spent 10 nights in Tunisia. It is a wonderful country. It is a wonderful country. I enunciate this because there is still fear: fear of violence and fear of Muslims. The people were kind. The waters were crystal blue. The country is safe.
It is a wonderful country.
I was lucky to have a friend living there, and between her and her partner, they covered Arabic and French fluently. Did I mention I fit the American-monolinguist stereotype to a T? We surveyed the Medina and souks within, covering the most nearby coastal areas of La Marsa and Sidi Bou Said as well. The second weekend, we drove down to Kelibia for a couple hours of late afternoon sun. During the week, I roamed La Marsa, with a few nights in Nabeul, near Hammamet.
Of course, it was the time spent alone, unsheltered by others, that I truly experienced Tunisia. A school holiday while I was there, I watched young boys race, again and again, into the still chilly waters, tricking each other as some halted and others dove into the shallows. I watched young woman wearing hijabs using selfie sticks to capture some of the boldest sun of the year. I was featured in some of the photos of male youth, without my permission but innocently all the same. I was asked if I were French or Dutch, and, when I said American, greeted warmly. Men in shops told me they used to have two or three stores, but now just the one, because tourism had thinned since 2015. They told me of their people's kindness, but of their country's corruption as well. It was the same story of so many other countries, including my own. I drank mint tea as calls to prayer resounded in the city. On a longer drive back from Nabeul to La Marsa, I spoke two hours with a man who grew up not far from Hammamet, in (my) broken French, about his family and his work. We are the same, another man told me. We are friends.
Also noteworthy, the shopping. I bought rugs, ceramics, beach towels and blankets. The woman working Tunisair kindly forgave my 2kgs of extra baggage weight. And, the cats. Stray, charming cats everywhere. I became so used to it that I kept imaging them on the streets here in Geneva until I realized there were none. Our streets are far more boring.