At the tender age of 22, myself and my parents visited Tunisia for a week. As I was not accustomed to travelling long distances back then, the first thing that struck me was the shear contrast in behavioural expectations from the prominent mosques to the vibrant beaches. These historical buildings beckoned us to navigate the city with reserve and respect while the sandy strips ushered us into adopting a more liberal and relaxed attitude.
Back at the hotel, I was blown away by the swan and heart shaped structures sculpted from towels and waiting to welcome me back to the room everyday. This immediately gave me a good sense of the taste and imagination of the Tunisian people.
For me, this was the perfect place to escape to from rainy Ireland. After a certain amount of time living in Dublin, you forget that the rest of the world are participating in outdoor pursuits such as picnics, barbecues and swimming.
I think these are simple activities that most people take for granted, but when you live in a country that can quite easily rain everyday for over two months of summer, then you learn to really appreciate opportunities to step out and enjoy nature to the fullest.
This was also a good chance for me to watch and learn as my dad showed off his excellent haggling skills – something that is a necessity in this part of Tunisia to avoid being exploited for the tourist you are. From souvenirs in the boutique little shops to fares on camel rides, there was no end to his bartering talent. A strong stance needed to be adopted in order to penetrate through the crowds of shopkeepers attempting to bundle us into their establishments.
He sure had his work cut out for him on this vacation when while coming back from Hammamet, a taxi driver asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. In exchange, he was offered a few cows and sheep. As quick-witted as ever, he asked the driver which one did he think was his daughter – myself or my mother. The driver new better than to reply to that one. Yet, it struck me as curious at the time that he would only talk to my Dad. As the conversation developed, the driver revealed that I would have to become Islamic in order to be his wife. At this point in the conversation the joke was definitely over and I was keen to change the subject. Thank God I was not fighting with dad earlier that day. Who knows – maybe he would have sold me. It was funny and frightening at times how little power I seemed to have there.
Overall, Tunisia is a culturally rich country. We visited a few interesting places like El- Jem Colosseum. It is now World Heritage-listed and possibly the most impressive Roman monument in Africa. The country seems well worth the visit but ladies, you need to research a little of what to expect so that you don’t find yourselves disappointed.
That’s it from me for now.
Happy travelling!!! Olga
Click Map: http://goo.gl/maps/Pmxdo
- Hammamet – Tunisia (peters365photos.wordpress.com)
- Atheism in Tunisia: Diverse and Vibrant, Yet Still Taboo (atheismafrica.wordpress.com)