the Ruins of
|At the ruins of Carthage.
September 20, 2007
I just typed the date and noticed today is my sister’s wedding anniversary. Special shout out to Michelle and Clarke – way to
go on entering Year #5!
I got in to Tunis last night. With Ramadan being in full-effect, that meant the streets were in full-effect (with both groups of
friends and families with young children) around midnight when I arrived at my hotel. One thing was obvious when I went to
walk up and down the street: I stood out. Yes, there were women out. But I was the only Westerner out on the streets. I never
felt unsafe but I did feel a bit out-of-place. I guess it all comes with the territory of being in a Muslim country.
I started my morning at the medina. The medina was the same as others in regards to any and every piece of souvenir kitsch
was being sold. It was the same in that every salesman tried to lure you in. It was the same in that the doors were picturesque
and ornate. It was the same in that the ‘streets’ were totally narrow. The noticeable difference was the color scheme of this
medina. All of the buildings were white-washed and the vast majority of the doors and windows were a bright sea-blue color.
This added a whole new element of beauty.
Beautiful colors aside, though, I realized today that I am medina’d out. This is good to know at this point in the game. I still don’
t know which other places I am going to visit in Tunisia…but I at least know that I am going to put zero-priority on medinas (as
my guidebook talks about certain cities with great medinas). I think my destinations are going to be based around a certain
thing known out here as ‘eau’ (water) – I want to be near the coast as much as possible.
After the medina, I went to the Bardo Museum. While this museum is a ‘must visit’ while in Tunis, I didn’t really know what to
expect. Was I going to like the stuff here? Was I just going because my guidebook said to?
I have to say that I really enjoyed this museum visit. It’s never a bad thing when a museum is housed in a former palace. The
majority of the works were mosaics. They were incredible to look at up close and then gradually step back and see the entire
piece. There were also statues found at the ruins sites around Tunisia. I got a kick out of Venus who appeared to be flicking
people off. In the end, this museum was everything it was cracked up to be. I was another satisfied museum-goer.
A visit to the museum makes a person realize that Tunisia has an insane number of places to go to check out ruins from
thousands of years ago. The problem with this? My love of ruins goes about as far as “Oh. That’s pretty cool.” I knew ruins
weren’t going to top my list as far as things to see in Tunisia. I think they are great for people who have the interest in going
into the middle of nowhere to see them. But I’m not one of those people.
The great thing about being in Tunis is that I am basically next-door to the ruins at Cathage. A twenty or so minute train ride
to see some ruins? Now that I can do.
I literally gasped when I saw the shades of blues and greens of the sea as I walked up to one of the many sites of Carthage
ruins. I am the unknowledgeable idiot that didn’t know that Carthage was right near the coast. This changed things a bit. It
turns out that I have no problem looking at ruins with a sea serving as the backdrop. Especially when that sea is in shades of
blue and green.
I ended up meeting an English man while I was walking along. To make a long story short, he suggested that we explore some
of the ruins near the port together. I wasn’t married to my idea of seeing the other ruins I was heading to so I agreed to this.
Sure Gordon (the Brit) was harmless. But harmless does not mean that he wasn’t a bit painful. I think he had tons of pent up
conversation in him that he hadn’t been able to let out in the past few days. What this led to was me having to listen to story
after story after story (after about 100 more stories) of Gordon’s past travels.
At first he had the potential to be interesting. He’s a freelance travel photographer. It would have been cool to ask him some
questions about that. That would only be if Gordon could stop for just three seconds to let me get a few words out. That would
not happen. He kept telling me about all of these different cities and countries. I didn’t really need descriptions of most of these
places as I had already been to most. But once again, Gordon wouldn’t know this because he wouldn’t shut his mouth.
And then there was waiting on him while he pulled out all of his camera gear just to take one measly photo. Everything in me
wanted to bail and go my own way. But there was no escape. As luck would have it (and I didn’t say ‘good’ luck) Gordon and I
are staying at the same hotel. He asked if I wanted to grab dinner with him tonight in the medina. I had absolutely no out. In a
couple hours I have to get ready to break my Ramadan fast…
So much for thinking this Ramadan thing was somewhat of a ‘diet’. I just ate enough food for a family to survive for a week.
Not eating tomorrow is not going to be a problem at all.
We ended up going to an alternate restaurant since the one we were wanting to try was booked solid. Not a problem as we just
had a great meal…complete with all of the Tunisian specialties. We were even led to the restaurant by a man with a lantern.
Nice little touch.
It started with about six different dishes of things being brought to the table as soon as we sat down. I don’t really know what
these things were (with the exception of the dates) but they were all extremely tasty. Then we were handed menus. We would
find out that we were in for a 6-course feast. And this was when reality set in that I wasn’t going to be shedding any pounds
due to eating nothing during the day for Ramadan – this dinner was probably going to set me back two-days worth of calories.
But how often is one in Tunisia? I have to take advantage of the local grub…
The only set-back to this dinner was…Gordon. I had to sit through listening to him go through memory after memory from his
past travels. He never asked questions. He just talked. And talked. And then talked some more. He even started going into a
time when he got sick and started referring to his bowels…then IBS…then his bowels again. At this point, I stopped him and
told him to knock off that talk while I am eating. By course #2 I checked out of everything he was saying. Since I was never
really able to talk, I just nodded and said lots of ‘uh-huh’s. He was so intent on talking that he never even realized that I wasn’t
listening to him. If it was between a dinner companion like this or eating solo, I would gladly take the latter. While he was busy
listening to his own voice, I was focusing on how darn good my food was.
My meal consisted of:
Course #1: Soup de poisson (fish soup).
Course #2: Salade de merchoia (absolutely delicious Tunisian specialty).
Course #3: Tajine (in Tunisia this is more like a quiche).
Course #4: Briq (another specialty in a filo-like crust with fish and a runny egg inside, amongst other things).
Course #5: Couscous poisson.
Course #6: A hazelnut pudding-like dessert.
Thankfully I head out to Djerba early tomorrow morning so I run no risk of stumbling across Gordon today. I know I am being
harsh. But I know my threshold for people and mine completely ran out during dinner tonight.
|In front of one of many mosaics at The Bardo
|One of the many examples of cool doors in