The Island of
September 21, 2007
This morning I flew into the island of Djerba. I admit to ‘cheating’ a bit by taking a flight. But in my defense, I’m not in Tunisia
very long and I don’t want to waste a lot of time figuring out all of the transportation logistics. There are a couple things I’m
interested in seeing down here in the southern part of the country and…wait…why am I justifying this? So what if I wanted to
fly. It was a quick, easy and very pleasant way to get here.
I am staying in Hamat Souk – as the only other area with hotels on this island is the ‘Zone Touristique’. I have come to learn
that this term means ‘people on package holidays’.
This island sticks with the common theme of whitewashed buildings that I saw in Tunis. I have never been to Santorini but
from pictures I have seen, it almost feels like it has been dropped and spread out all over Djerba.
I wandered around the souk and came face-to-face with huge amounts of tour buses dropping the masses off (I’m assuming all
of these people were coming from the Zone Touristique). After I got my souk fill, I headed off to see the much-praised
Synagogue in the middle of the island. Next time I will have to time this better and not on the day that the most religious
Jewish holiday falls on. Why? Because the Synagogue was closed. Crap. I decided since I was already in a taxi, I might as well
check out this ‘Zone Touristique’ that I had read about. After all, it wouldn’t hurt to see a beach.
From eyeing some postcards, I saw that camel rides on this beach were a possibility. Score! I inquired at the resort I stopped
at and was told to be in the reception area at 6:00pm. I had about four hours to kill. This was when I became a fraud Sofitel
guest. At least I would have something to atone for once the sun went down, right? Part of the time was spent on the beach
and the rest of the time was spent swimming in the pool and dozing off on one of the pool chairs. This isn’t to say that I ‘fit in’
there. While everybody was carrying their tote bags with their necessities, I came equipped with my small backpack.
And then came time for the camel ride. Moving along the turquoise water sure had a different feeling than when I was in the
presence of only sand dunes in Morocco. I guess it was like riding a horse along the beach without the fear that the horse was
going to gallop and move faster than I feel comfortable with. No fears with a camel doing something like that.
I came back to Houmet Souk and learned something: the center becomes a ghost town around 7:30pm during Ramadan. There
wasn’t a soul anywhere to be seen. Not one. A bit weird. A bit eerie. But also a bit cool. Like I had the entire center to myself.
While I listened to the never-ending prayer call, I managed to find one restaurant that was open a bit out of the center. By the
time I headed back to my hotel, life had continued and people were out drinking their bottles of water (something they are all
too excited to do after a day in the absence of such a thing), smoking their cigarettes and sheesha and playing card games.
Oh. I should mention that I made it through yet another day sticking with fasting from food. It sure isn’t that hard when there
isn’t one café open and the food options at the Sofitel were as much as my hotel is costing me.
Now with it being Yom Kippur it is only right that I fast for this holiday while atoning for all of my sins of the past year (and,
yes, there are quite a few that I have thought of). Sooo…it won’t be until around this time tomorrow when I eat my next meal.
Probably best not to think of it…
September 22, 2007
I learned something tonight during the prayer call while somewhat communicating with a Tunisian man.
Let me flashback to last night when a bomb-like sound went off. I knew it wasn’t a bomb but it sure sounded like one. I knew it
wasn’t something to be concerned about but it was impossible to miss it.
Now back to tonight. I’m talking to the man and all of a sudden the same bomb-like noise occurred. At that very moment he let
out a sigh of relief and lit up a cigarette. Turns out this happens every night during Ramadan to let people know when they can
officially stop fasting. The guys out here don’t seem to care less about the eating part. It’s the ‘not smoking’ part that is the
biggest challenge. He also asked me if he could have some of my water. Us Westerners aren’t used to complete strangers
asking for such a thing. But he just went a day without water. I wasn’t going to turn down his request. I was actually just going
to let him keep it…but then I saw that people out here have developed quite the skill of not actually drinking the water from
the bottle – they rest their hand near their chin and then pour the water so that it is within a couple inches of their mouths.
And every single drop went into his mouth. There is no way I could ever do such a thing so gracefully.
This also concluded my fast for the day. Did I break the fast with dinner? Of course not. I broke it with a piece of cake from the
patisserie. Then it was time to grab some dinner…
|In the center of Houmet Souk.
|Some more of the whitewashed buildings.