Tunisia
Tunisia

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26 travelers at this place:

  • Day1

    Everything started with this nut.

    The evening I arrived Walid, who would soon become my guide, my bodyguard and then my loving friend, drove me directly to “The Wedding”. The Weddings are the long awaited events in Tunisia and they mainly happen in August, when most of expat families come back from their hosting countries to spend their holiday home.
    Should I change myself and wear something more appropriate? Walid answered to that question by shaking his head. Here, nobody cares. Not only do people wear what they want as if it was an ordinary day but they do not have a standard, meaning that if you want to dress up and wear the smartest outfit you have in your wardrobe, you can; you can wear a jeans and a T-shirt or, like most of middle-aged women, you can wear a traditional Tunisian dress with gold and burgundy or green and ivory or any other color combination you can think of. You can also dress in the “European” way with smart black trousers and a red jacket and high heel shoes at your feet matched with the perfect bag.

    We are at Zeramdine, a dry and dusty village in the southernmost part of Al Munastir: the closest thing to a desert I have seen in my life. Indian figs plants and olive trees reassure you this piece of land is alive and there is water somewhere.
    It was The Wedding day 6, that means I missed most of the celebration week culminating in day 7, when bride and groom and their families finally meet for the big feast.
    Despite the tiredness, the flight delay, the missed exit on the motorway from the airport, despite the late hour, Walid and I finally arrived at the Grandfather’s House. Shining under a blind spotlight, at 1am the spacy court of the house was crowded with people. Men lazily lying on a carpet aside a sleepy groom waving hello at our entrance and women wandering about to offer nuts and candies in straw baskets. Their kisses and their looks penetrated me and unexpectedly triggered the start of what was going to be a journey into myself.
    I took a nut from a basket but there was not nutcracker. I smiled and asked with a gesture how could I open it and they smiled back to me without an answer. That nut was telling me there isn’t always an answer to questions but also, sometimes there aren’t questions to ask.
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  • Day2

    Le marriage

    August 16 in Tunisia

    Le marriage.

    My friend Feiza, Walid’s mother, is my student in Milan. My feelings to her are difficult to explain. When I look into her eyes I see my mother, my grandmother, and the female side of the family I grew up with in Napoli. We are Mediterranean women and we know the same language, and that is enough to understand each other. This language is love. Love for her children and her husband Mansour, for her house, for her cooking, for her house at the top of a road with no asphalt. Half of her family lives between Italy and Belgium. The other half stayed in Tunisia: Walid and his sister, Hanane.

    I sleeply open the door and a pair of cosy slippers show up at the threshold. They say welcome.
    Walid advices staying in Zeramdine today, there is so much to do for the wedding.
    We go back at the Grandfather’s house under a boiling sun. On two sides of the big court two shelters reassure me I can find shade to my body already longing for water.

    I was just figuring out what would be the soundtrack for such a spaghetti movie scenario (of course Ennio Morricone’s "A Fistful of Dollars" theme https://youtu.be/i_UD-zxgRUs ) when slowly the protagonist entered the scene.

    My senses were taken by the supernatural aura of this man in his tunic and with his straw hat on. I shook my hand with the Grandfather.

    Under the shelter two beautiful women were peeling dozens of garlics and in one of the rooms two women were preparing couscous in a huge casserole. As a guest I had to be the first one to try. I shared the delicious dish with Mansour, amazed by the habit of sharing but happy for such a generous offering.
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  • Day2

    Men's dance

    August 16 in Tunisia

    Men's dance (includes videos)

    At 7pm in the open space the musicians were singing and playing their instruments sitting on a carpet by the wall of a house. A bunch of women on the other side of the wall gathered together each placing her chair in the spot to get the best seat for the show. In front of us a psychedelic sunset would already be worthy the ticket.
    More women arrived kissing each other and placing their chairs one tightly next to the other forming a colorful crowd. One after the other they started to connect with the musicians, some dancing, some beating the time by whisking their red and green drapes.

    The show was about to start. Two children by a fire warmed up wooden-framed drums that they would hand out to the musicians in exchange of a cold drum. Chants and music created a score that everybody knew, except me.

    Then arrived the men. Wearing long tunics, ivory and white, they placed themselves in a long row facing the public. Behind them another row of young guys whose role was beating the time by clapping their hands. In front of them on the two sides two bunches of men with wide-sleeve brown tunics moved their steps in two circles by waving their arms in and out. In and out, in and out, like lazy seagulls until their steps speeded up in a dance. The two circles proceeded synchronized, slowly and then fast and the dancers suddenly spinned around themselves by lifting their feet for one moment. The music and the dance created a mesmerizing scene (video)

    https://youtu.be/JcM-QHk5aoY

    More than two hours of dancing and the excitement grew bigger and bigger, the musicians beat their drums stronger and stronger and the women whisked their drapes more and more energetically. No conventions, no afterthought, no limits, no rules. They will hate me for that but it looked more like a fascinating pagan rite to me than anything else.
    Dancers and women were now all standing and they joined the musicians for the final song. They shouted in a stadium chant and shaked they bodies despite their age, despite the late hour, despite the energy already spent, until a sort of trance caught the young ones as in an initiation rite.
    This video will explain better than I can do.

    https://youtu.be/a4-IU5mUQ0k

    Thousands impressions had struck my senses, I felt like both longing for more and needing a sleep. I followed the others to the Bride’s house for a picture I didn’t take and then back to the Grandfather’s house to attend the final ceremony.
    I had attended just one day and I felt exhausted. I put myself in the bride and groom’s shoes and felt released for them after a whole week celebration.
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  • Day3

    El Jem (El Mehdia)

    August 17 in Tunisia

    Bsisa at breakfast.

    Feiza opens her hands and says “dix” and she means in the delicious spread called Bsisa there are at least ten different ingredients. Barley, cumin, dates, olive oil, sugar, anis, coriander and who knows what else. The result is excellent, I spread Bsisa on the freshly baked bread with a drop of honey and everyone looks at me thinking I am strange.

    Shall we go to El Jem today? I say yes, though I know they need to sleep. They want me to be happy, to take the best from my staying with them, I feel I’m a special guest.
    El Jem is a real gem. It is the second largest amphitheatre of Roman times after the Coliseum and it was built in the city of the Roman Empire then called Thysdrus. Big quantities of olive oil were produced here when the climate was less dry than today. Thysdrus and Sousse competed for the second place after the very well known city of Carthage.
    The oval monument in the blinding sun is astonisting and I feel like home thinking of Cuma, Pompei and all the Roman ruins contemporary to El Jem. On the way back home we try to reach the huge salt pans (Salines) but the road conditions discourage us and we drive home safely.
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  • Day4

    Tunis

    August 18 in Tunisia

    A two-day trip to Tunis.

    Nightime. The spirit of Tunisia has already conquered me. As my hosts suggest, I must take the best from my trip and I suggest Walid that we should go to Tunis for two days. It is Friday and on Monday we have to be home for the Eid, the Day of the Sacrifice, a sort of Easter of Arabic countries and for the arrival of Hanane, Walid's sister.
    With AirBnb we easily find an accomodation in the Medina and in the morning we leave. On the motorway dozen of vans carry dozen of sheep to Tunis for their last journey...
    The owner of the house, Mehdi, in his Bermuda shorts pulled up to his stomach is very kind and talkative, he suggests there is a plot in Europe against poor countries to avoid they can develop. I think it over from this unusual point of view.
    The house is a traditional Tunisian house with the rooms opening up into a cosy court with fantasy tiles and tourquoise doors.
    The rain is la threat to our plans to see the Medina, Carthage, the dreamlike places at the seaside like Sidi Bou Said. We decide to lead to the modern Tunis, instead.

    Avenue Bourguiba, named after the first President of independent Tunisia, is packed with people and tourists strolling on the pathways. This place was the location of many political protests included the deposition of integralist President Bel Ali in 2011.
    I feel home, expecially next to the charming theatre shining in a golden light of the sunset.
    Neverthless, the attraction by the Medina is too strong, so we enter the heart of the old city through the Bab (old Gate) through a unusually desert suk, up to the other political place in Tunis, Casbah Square. This is where the Jasmine revolution took place in 2011 and the democratization of Tunisia has started.
    Thank you people, never give up.
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  • Day5

    Morning at Medina (Tunis)

    August 19 in Tunisia

    Tunis gets ready for Eid.

    Finding breakfast in the Medina on a Sunday before a bank holiday is not easy: all bars and restaurants are closed. On the other end, starting my day without breakfast is not easy either. So while we walk amid the noisy crowd under a boiling sun I feel very uneasy.
    Walid maintains that if I knew the Arabic language it would be easier for me. I think he's right, it is a culture clash and the first expression of a culture is its language. I start to appreciate the ancient wisdom of Arabic culture, its care for people, the tenderness in the words, the understated compassion of people.

    We finally found a coffee, by the way the freshly brewed Tunisian expresso is excellent! A pack of biscuits and breakfast is eaten.
    The Medina is made of tiny streets and old porches, white houses with tourquoise doors. A stratification of architectural styles which reminds me of Napoli.
    I have to stop by the house of the Tunis Mayor, which by the way is a woman! One of the many contradictions of this country where the new generations live a conflict between their education and their inner aspirations.

    A kind carpet seller offers us a toilette in exchange of a beautiful hand-made berber carpet for my mum. In turn, we gain an oustanding view from his terrace. I am pleased my friend Walid has the chance to see alternative views on the city thanks to my physiological needs. But our smiling faces would stop soon...
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  • Day5

    Sidi Bou Said and La Goulette

    August 19 in Tunisia

    The thunderstorm.

    Despite the roaring thunders, in the afternoon we decided to go north-east towards the coast. The mythic ancient city of Carthage lays next to two quiet villages called Sidi Bou Said (literally Mister Father of Said) and the port of La Goulette. In the port of La Goulette the famous Italian actress Claudia Cardinale was born from Sicilian parents.

    A gloomy sky was threatening us as we arrived in the pretty square of Sidi Boud Said. Clock! Clock!clock!clock!clock!....
    An epic warm hailstorm befell upon the little village with such a violence that we had to find shelter in a cafè. No one here has ever seen anything like that before. I think about climate change.
    It lasted a long hour and then the wind and the rain calmed down. Soaked like a sponge, I buy a pair of new sandals and we headed to La Goulette looking for a place to eat. In La Goulette the roads were flooded, people walked in the street barefoot with the water up to their knees. We kept on driving in panic until we came across a flock of sheep soaked in water in the middle of the street which didn't want to move.
    My worst thoughts naturally flew into me. I had no hopes we would go back to Tunis by the end of the day.
    As I was able to spot from the plane, La Goulette is connected to Tunis by a motorway whose first segment is built just on a bridge above a lake. I was determined not to drive upon that bridge.
    Walid had to call the police to convince me that the way back was safe, so I took a breath. When the flood was behind us we found a super smart fish restaurant where I had the first and the best-deserved and most delicious Ojja in my life.
    Ojja is a thick fish soup with whole eggs baked into it.
    What-a-day !
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  • Day6

    The Acropolis of Carthage

    August 20 in Tunisia

    We say goodbye to the house in the Medina and head to the long awaited Acropolis of Carthage. The good weather makes me so emotional ! I want to shout that IT IS SUNNY IN TUNIS TODAY!
    The massive Cathedral of Saint Louis is just on the top of the hill of the Acropolis. It was built by the French protectorat at the end of the 19th century. It looks a bit anacronistic if compared to the ancient ruins which surround it, but it has got beauty in itself. If seen by a distance it is like l'Eglise su Sacré Coeur in Paris.

    It's high time we went to the the archeologic site. Actually, the sites (plural), because Carthage's ruins are scattered all along the hill. I just realize there won't be enough time to see them all. We make a choice and go for the nearby Museum and archeological site. The museum is closed for maintenance but the ancient Basilicas and the Punic quarter looking out the double circles of the Punic harbour give me the creeps. This site is even older than the Roman sites I am used to in Europe. Hannibal resided here. The Punic battles were fought from here, Hannibal , the undefeated hater of Romans, was Tunisian!
    I shouldn't talk but the hot is killing me, and Walid. We move to the second site, the Termae of Antonin dated II century A.C.which is inside a beautiful archeological park. On the way, we come across a beautiful building that we find out to be the Institute of Arts and Science of Tunis. Thanks to the kind guardian, who was about to go to lunch, we get access to the building. What a spectacular view!
    The Termae (Spa) lays just by the sea, they are massive and many buildings are in an excellent state. We sit down to admire the times gone by and to gain a little shade.

    It's time to go home...but not before trying a delicious Brik at a nearby pizzeria. Brik is a deep fried crunchy thin crèpe filled with tuna, eggs and cheese. Spectacular. Thank you Walid.

    When we get home Mansour shows me a number 1-shaped birthday candle and tells me "this is the first time for you in our home". I don't take too much notice.
    When later in the evening I see a carton box hiding a pistache cake from the best patisserie in town I understand and while I blow on the candle I burst into tears.
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  • Day7

    Eid Mabrouk! (Happy Eid!)

    In the morning we wake up sleepy Hanane who is been travelling all night long from Djerba.
    The Belhadj family is frantic, they have a lot to celebrate: Eid, Hanane, and...what else?

    Mansour goes to the kitchen, takes half a lamb out of a bag and cut it into pieces while Feiza puts a massive quantity of a greenish spice called Corcorus into boiling oil. The incredibly rich dish called Mloukhya takes many hours to cook and I can't wait...
    Meanwhile we receive the visit from the lovely nearly 90-year-old Grandmother. She appears from the garden after a long walk on her own with a stick for wishing us Eid Mabrouk!
    Her tales from her youth, when her father didn't let her study as she wishes make me smile with compassion. The family reunited is really happy. "I'm sad when you're gone", she tells them.

    Talking with Granmother about a real tattoo she's got on her chin, Feiza and Hanane prepare a surprise for me. With the complicity of Walid a young beautician comes home to make me the best of henna ever!
    My thankfulness is growing in my chest.

    People come, people go in a Tunisian home. There is not a fixed time to eat lunch. The members of the family are freed from this convention: when you are hungry, you eat. So I decide to wait until evening to try Mloukhya.

    We decide to go to visit El Munastir. Its massive Rībat was used for centuries as a fort against the Christians. The wide pavement leading to the huge Mausoleum of President Bourghiba suggests me this is the closest thing to Taj Mahal I have seen in my life: such a tomb for just one person!
    The nearby white cemetery and its leaning trees, the quite port and Marina and the yellow Rībat shining against a rosy sunset make me feel happy and lucky to be here.
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  • Day4

    Ein Strandtag wie gemalt

    July 17 in Tunisia

    Gjina entscheidet sich schon früh am Morgen (7 Uhr) an den Strand zu gehen, um die friedvolle und besondere Atmosphäre zu genießen. Um 9 Uhr treffen wir uns zum Frühstück und bald danach geht es an den leeren Strand ( wir haben doch Hauptsaison?!). Stundenlang kann man sich in dem glasklaren warmen Wasser aufhalten, es ist herrlich auch am Strand mit der kleinen Brise auf der Haut, die die hohe Außentemperatur angenehm macht. Wir spielen, wir sonnen uns, wir quatschen miteinander und der Redestoff geht niemals aus. Ein kleiner Strandspaziergang am Nachmittag führt uns zu einem kleinen Kaffee (Café Maure), in dem auch Shishas angeboten werden. Unsere Wahl fällt aber auf einen frisch gemachten, typischen Pfefferminztee und ein Schoko-crêpe, denn wie Gjina gelernt hat: Schokolade macht glücklich....(Insider-Joke)Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Tunisia, Tunesien, Tunisia, Tunisië, Tunihyia, ቱኒዚያ, Tunicia, تونس, ܬܘܢܣ, Túnez, Tunisiya, Туніс, Тунис, Tunizi, টিউনিস্, Tunizia, Republika Tunis, Tunísia, Tunisko, Tunis, Tunisia nutome, Τυνησία, Tunizio, Tuneesia, Tunisii, Tunesia, Tunisie, An Túinéis, ટ્યુનિશિયા, טוניסיה, ट्यूनीसिया, Tunézia, Թունիս, Túnis, チュニジア共和国, ტუნისი, ទុយនេស៊ី, ಟುನಿಶಿಯಾ, 튀니지, टुनिशिया, توونس, Tunisi, Tunisya, Tinizi, ຕູນິເຊຍ, Tunisas, Tunisija, Tonizia, ടുണീഷ്യ, ट्यूनिशिया, Tuneż, တူနီးရှား, टुनिसिया, Tunesië, ତୁନିସିଆ, Tunezja, Tuniziya, Tunisìa, Tunizïi, ටියුනීසියාව, Tunizija, Tuniisiya, Tunisien, டுனிசியா, ట్యునీషియా, ตูนิเซีย, Tunīsia, Tunus, تۇنىس, تیونیسیا, Tuy-ni-di (Tunisia), Tunizeye, Orílẹ́ède Tuniṣia, 突尼斯, i-Tunisia

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