Tunisian luxury without limits...1 more week
What is really important here in life?
I am still in Tunisia. I'm trying to work out why we even call Tunisia "Tunisia"? Apparently it dates back to the Berber word for "laying down" or "encampment". The ancestors to today's Berber tribes arrived in Tunisia around 6,000 years ago (from the Nile region) and called it something similar to "Tunis". Then the Phoenicians arrived about 3,100 years ago and took over. Carthage was already established by then, originating out of Berber culture, and from this point on heavily influenced by the Phoenicians (the Phoenicians came from present day middle eastern countries). Okay, then the Roman Empire grew in might and power and they wanted Carthage about 2,100 years ago. The romans didn't bother calling it Tunis and renamed it "Ifriqiya" or what we today call "Africa". So well done Tunisia on laying name to an entire continent! (Ifriqiya also included parts of Algeria and Libya). The Vandals arrive about 1,600 years ago to destroy Roman culture and take over. 1,400 years ago the Arabs showed up and kept the region until 1,100 years ago when the Berbers took it back. 400 years ago the Ottoman Empire reached present day Tunisia and claimed it. Around 200 years ago the French started showing interest and they apparently added the "ia" to the "Tunis", so there you go...now we know that. Or since they were French you might argue they added the "ie" as the French say: Tunisie :)
A small part of Carthage.
I cannot fathom why traveling to every country should ever be this complicated? 2 countries left in Africa. I have been to every African country without flying except 2?!? One is west of Tunisia and the other is east. A few days ago I found myself looking at different quotes. The one that caught my attention was this: "I am somewhere between giving up and seeing how much more I can take". For a lot of the Saga that sounds just about right. Fortunately I have a strong band of Tunisian brothers backing me up. If we start from the beginning we have Mohammed Ben-Braham, who is the country manager for Maersk in Djibouti and Somalia (www.maersk.com). "Ben" introduced me to Yussury Kallouche, who once was the managing director of Maersk in Tunisia but now works for BMMI in Djibouti (www.bmmigroup.com). One of "Ben's" best friends is Aymen Gharbi, who I met on my very first day in Tunisia. Aymen is the managing director of MAC Agency (www.facebook.com/MAC.Agency/). Shortly after that I was introduced to Habib Bouricha who is a good friend of Yussury. Habib also lives in Tunis (the capital of Tunisia) and is the managing director of Tandem Logistics (www.tandem-logistics.com/). Having done my talk at the Tunisia Maersk office I was introduced to Sly "Slim" Abid who was already a friend of "Ben", Yussury and Aymen. By the way, I'm keeping "Ben" in quotation marks because "Ben" would be Arabic and mean "son of". Since his name is Mohammed Ben-Braham he is "son of Braham"...or just "Ben".
My friend Aymen and I.
Still don't have a photo of Habib. He must be a secret agent ;)
Slim brought me around for a few interviews and then dropped me off at the station. Here's a sample: https://www.facebook.com/Tunivisions.net/videos/1362938060450460/
Okay, so that's quite a cast to help me out. And they have all been amazing. Habib introduced me to Karim who lives in Sousse and works for www.boehringer-ingelheim.com/. Karim immediately invited me to come and stay in Sousse for the weekend and he would arrange for yet another 5 star hotel for me (Habib set me up for 3 nights at a 5 star hotel in Tunis). Sousse is located at the Mediterranean Sea just 140 km (87 mi) south of Tunis). I was waiting for some paperwork to come through regarding the logistics of the Saga and nothing was going to happen during the weekend anyway. So I made it the 90 minutes from Tunis to meet Karim and his family. Pretty much on arrival to Sousse he picked me up and introduced me to his wife, his mother and his 2 sons.
Karim is a great well liked guy. His wife is both beautiful and a brilliant cook AND a doctor. His mother is funny as can be! :)
We finished an extraordinarily delightful meal and I ate way too much. Karim's family is lovely and the boys were in a hurry to get back to their Xbox while Karim's mother did her best trying to remember Danish royalty. I have to mention the food again! Wow!!
Can't you just tell? ;)
Then Karim took me out to meet some of his friends and late at night he dropped me off at the Hôtel IBEROSTAR Diar El Andalous (www.iberostar.com/hoteles/sousse/iberostar-diar-el-andalous). It was a great place with beach, pools and spa. A lot of German and Russian tourist also enjoyed it. So many that the staff automatically spoke German to me as well.
Karims gift to the Saga: https://www.iberostar.com/hoteles/sousse/iberostar-diar-el-andalous
On the morning of the day I returned to Tunis, Karim arranged for his father-in-law to organize a guided tour for me at the historical Medina. His father-in-law is Tijani Kammoun and speaks German, French and Arabic but not English. I speak German too but never thought I would do so in Tunisia? Apparently I would be speaking plenty of it?
Tijani on the far right and Fattah in the middle. Great company!
Tijani picked me up in front of the hotel and we proceeded to meet with Fattah Ghachem who speaks English quite well. Fattah grew up in the Medina so his stories were absolutely unique. It was very interesting to see the Medina through his eyes! Fattah showed me the door to the building which used to be his home. He told me about how they used to play football in the narrow streets, played hopscotch and a variety of other games I remember from my own childhood in Denmark.
The Medina of Sousse.
Fattah explained how all the doors used to be open in the daytime and how women would go from home to home and borrow stuff like salt or sugar if they didn't have time to reach the market. He also talked about the various businesses which have now disappeared as the new generation simply go to the supermarkets or malls. I met the last weaver in the region who is now around 80 years old. He'd been practicing his craft for 65 years and his ship had now been declared a sight for cultural heritage. Fattah told me that his sisters used to buy from him and that it was the latest fashion. Now it appears that there is no one to take over.
Mr Abdelaziz Bettaibya is a living legend of the Sousse Medina.
We saw a mill which is still in practice today. People have their beans, grains, coffee etc grinded there every day. Everywhere we walked Fattah would point and have a story. An open area between shops would be where they used to sell meat. A government building we entered used to be off limits and protected by armed guards. So many stories...
There's something very charming and social about doing things the old way.
Tourism is rather on the slow side since the revolution according to Fattah. On top of that we are in the holy month of the Ramadan and most coffee shops and cafes are closed now during the daytime so it was extra quiet. Definitely scenic and certainly worth a visit! And what an amazing way to see it: through someone else's perspective.
The beach near Sousse.
I made it back to Tunis where Habib had found a nice apartment I could stay in for only usd 33/night. That was truly a bargain however usd 13 above my daily budget. After 3 nights of that I had to move to something more economic. My usd 20/day is not only for accommodation but also for transport, meals and visas. It's an average of course and with the generous accommodations at various 5 star hotels I had a bit to spare.
Florian and I have already met several times and had many great conversations.
A half Danish half Moroccan journalist reached out to me as we were both in Tunisia at the same time. Florian is his name and we met up and had dinner together while I was still in the apartment. Afterwards we headed out into the night of Tunis Medina which is a powerful scene during the Ramadan. I'm kind of fasting too between sunrise and sunset. Not because I want to but I can't bring myself to eat and drink before those who are hungry and thirsty. Also food is more scarce during the Ramadan as many cafes and restaurants keep closed during the day.
Zaytuna Mosque is known to host one of the first and greatest universitits in the history of Islam. Groundbreaking commenced in 698 CE.
The nights then become spectacular events and the Tunisians definitely know how to have a good time. Socializing and dancing is a big part of it all after everyone has had something to eat. Anyway, Florian told me about a cheap hotel which I went to check out and it happened to be perfect for me. Usd 8/night and in the downtown area. Sure it could use a paint job, it looked rather worn out, had mosquitoes and lacked a toilet seat...but that actually feels more like my kind of place in some strange kind of way? I've been roughing it a lot throughout the past 3.5 years and it basically just feels more familiar to me. Isn't that strange?
Luxury is very nice but it is so much better spent in company than alone. A large bed in a beautiful bedroom, a living room with a view and all the extravagant luxuries make me feel a little lonely. I do appreciate it very much however it does leave me with a strange feeling. Maybe it's not the luxury at all? Perhaps I'm projecting feelings from something else? I certainly do want to go home. And as a bare minimum I'm anxious to leave the African continent conquered.
Would love to see my fiancée at the end of this table. The stay at the Regency Tunis Hotel was a gift to the Saga from Habib.
There's is no doubt that my strong band of Tunisian brothers are doing their utmost to secure that I have a wonderful time in Tunisia and that I enjoy some extra luxury while I'm here. Tunisia is by all means a very beautiful and interesting country and I feel safe wherever I go. Having been out with Florian a few times I have walked the well lit streets more than once during the night. Tunisia isn't Disneyland so use your common sense but don't expect the worst.
Medina in Tunis at night.
Tunisia would surely benefit from a rise within tourism to a level which it used to have before the "revolution". People here are kind and helpful. The food is good and there are plenty of sights. While Tunisia is predominantly a Muslim country there is both pork and beer for sale and on the menu. Besides with 1,148 km (713 mi) pristine coastline just waiting for you I'm not sure why you haven't booked your ticket yet?
Tunis, Lac 2.
"Ben" messaged me that a friend of his who used to work in Djibouti was inviting me to stay at a 5 star hotel he now manages in Tunis. So that brings us up on three 5 star hotels since I arrived less than 2 weeks ago. Luxury, luxury, luxury...
Le Corail Suites Hôtel was a present to the Saga from Corail Hotel: www.corail-suites.com
While I'm now closing in on the end of this weeks Friday Blog I can only say one thing: "Ben", Yussury, Aymen, Habib and Slim have all been amazing!
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - impatient
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga