Most times, if not all the time, when we think of Africa we envision Africans with dark brown skin and tightly coiled hair. Seldom do we think of Arabs. In most of the northern countries of Africa the inhabitants there are predominantly of Arab descent. Tunisia is located in the north, north east of Africa. The main language is Arabic but because Tunisia was once colonized by France the people also speak French. Most of their street signs, building signs and literature is in French… well… at least from what I observed in the short time that I was there.
Now, before I continue, I must share some sad news about my trip to Tunisia. I was lucky to travel to Tunisia with a Tunisian colleague who took us sightseeing by car to various locations. I had taken over 200 pictures and they were beautiful and stunning! Unfortunately, during my transfer of pictures from my camera to hard drive, my computer malfunctioned and I lost about four fifths of my pictures. I WAS DEVESTATED! So all I have to share is the remaining pictures which, to me, don’t do my experience much justice. I usually depend on my pictures to help me recall the events of the trip so the missing ones are like lost memories. However I’ll do my best to recall.
My colleagues and I were first driven to Avenue Habib Bourgiba, a quite popular and busy avenue in Tunis. We parked our rented vehicle in a mall parking lot and walked down the avenue taking in all the Franco-Arabic culture and snapping many pictures while at it. During our walk along the ave I noticed a building on my left whose windows were broken and boarded up. It literally looked like the building was attacked! I inquired about it and – from what I remember – my Tunisian colleague informed me that it was exactly what I thought! The building was the US Embassy and they attacked it because local muslims felt that the prophet Muhammad was insulted through some American documentary or movie that was released. Honestly, I can’t remember everything, however, It was a bit chilling to stand there watching this building in the state it was in with local militia sitting in trucks around the property. When I looked right, I was also surprised by what I saw. Ironically, standing there was a Catholic church. Being that Tunisia is an Islamic nation, that was the last thing I expected to see.
At the East end of the avenue we came to a mosque and then side street souk. A “souk”, from my experience, is an outdoor Arabic market. I love souks! They really exhibit a lot of the elements of Arabic culture. I was taking pictures like crazy! Local farmers gave us samples of local fruit that I’ve never seen before. There were fruits, clothes, jewelry, souvenirs and all sorts of items in the souk.
What intrigued me were the doors on many buildings. They were similar to the ones I’ve seen in pictures that are found in Greece. It’s not too farfetched to conclude that they are probably the same kind of doors since Tunisia is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and is not far from places like Malta, Italy and Greece. The doors were beautiful!
In the souk we met a local who offered us Maghrebi Mint Tea which is common in North Africa. They serve it in small glasses and position their arms peculiarly high to pour it into the glasses.
Afterwards, we ran into another merchant who was selling “fez” or “tarboosh”, red truncated hates with a tassel attached to the top also. He allowed us to try them on and he asked each of us where we were from. I mentioned that my family was from the Caribbean and then he said “Ah, Martinique!” I was shocked to hear him say that because my husband is from Martinique which is part of the French Caribbean. He emphasized that I’d be quite surprised about the places he knows about and we talked and laughed together.
We all walked down the souk street some more and ran into a mosque at the end. My Tunisian colleague mentioned that this specific mosque was a popular one in Tunis and, actually, in North Africa. Forgive me, reader, unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the Mosque but it was quite a structure to look at!
We all then walked back through the souk, picking up souvenirs along the way. I seldomnly buy souvenirs because I consider my pictures my souvenirs. Unfortunately, as you already know, I lost four fifths of my souvenirs. ***SAD FACE***
It was night time at this point as we walked west on Avenue Habib Bourgiba. At the western end of the avenue there is a clock tower that sits in the center of a roundabout known as the “Big Ben” of Tunis.
We finished our sightseeing with the clock tower and then all jumped in the car to get something to eat. Our Tunisian colleague took us to an area by the sea to a small, local fish market and restaurant. We had grilled fish. It was so fresh and flavorful! It was most likely the same-day catch. After dinner we headed to a local Carrefour, did some personal shopping and then headed back to the hotel. Though the day was a good one, it did not have such a good ending. On our way to the hotel our car rental broke down! So we had to take a taxi back to our hotel as our Tunisian colleague and another colleague remained with the rented car to wait for a tow truck.
Overall, the experience was a beautiful one and though I wasn’t able to share the images with you that I desired, many of the fondest remain in my memory… where they are safe until I can learn how to draw or paint them! lol