#4 Tunisia, Oct. 13, 2005

Dear Everybody,

After spending a week in Berlin, I returned to Tunisia. I didn’t get much sleep that night in Tunis as there was a woman that shrieked at a steady rhythm—one second high-pitched shrieks. This was very nearby and went on until 3:00 A.M. I’m pretty oblivious to street or party noise, but such a distressful sound kept me awake. It quit at 3 but another woman resumed the shrieking at 4:00 A.M. I’m thinking that maybe they were professional mourners and that there had been a death in the neighborhood—it was in quite a residential area.

I took a bus to Korbous which is a small town on Cape Bon, not far from Tunis. Actually I took two buses and asked many people for help and directions, first as I was walking in Tunis, looking for the bus station, and then in changing buses at Soliman. I gather that Tunisia went off daylight savings time while I was gone, as my watch was an hour ahead when I got to the bus station.

Korbous is a darling seaside place with some thermal springs. I took a ‘bath therapy’ and a massage—they double-teamed me with two vigorous female masseuses. You know, I’m the only person I know that doesn’t like a massage—I’m always glad when it’s over! The only thing I liked about it was the oil with rosemary that they used. It smelled so—tasty.

The next day I took two buses to Kelibia, on the other side of Cape Bon—another very ‘local’ town with a port, a fort, and a beach. Out of town a few miles I visited the site of Kerkquane which was settled in the 8th C. B.C. by the Phoenicians blending with the local Berbers.

Clearly they were very clean people—most of the houses (ruins) had bathtubs that were like reclining chairs with armrests. Some had two, intimately facing each other.

I was staying at a hostel along the beach near the port but there were always shared taxis to hail down when I wanted to go the 3 km into town. Surprisingly there was even one that picked me up at 5:30 A.M. when I had to take a 6:15 bus to Sousse on Tuesday. I had left early enough to walk if I had to.

Sousse is kind of like Acapulco—there’s an authentic town but with a thick overlay of tourism. Still it has a charming medina (where I stayed) with 24 mosques—equal opportunity—12 for men and 12 for women.

Ramadan started on Wednesday which will be in effect for almost the whole remainder of my trip. So far I haven’t seen any wholesale closings of restaurants. During Ramadan Muslims are not to eat or drink anything during daylight hours, and are to have no sex for the whole month, either. Shall we check out the OB departments of the hospitals next July to see if they are empty? Each morning and each evening there is an explosion—loud—perhaps a cherry bomb? Anyway it was startling at first, but now I know that it just signals when they can and can’t eat.

I think I mentioned ‘perfect’ weather one too many times as it rained off and on for two days. I managed to sightsee in between showers. There was the grand Mosque, built by a freed slave in 851 AD; the ‘Rabat’—a fortress built in 790 AD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I climbed 76 steps up to the tower to have a look around and pour boiling oil on anybody that seemed to be invading; an 11th C. caravanserai which was a beautiful old building with an amazing zig-zag dome; and of course, the souqs—“have a look, Madame—just one dinar!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no dogs here—I haven’t seen one for days. I sometimes hear them bark at night but apparently they are kept indoors. But there are scads of cats—they are everywhere, and they look healthy.

 

 

 

Today I visited two museums—one, Dar Essid, a private house built in 928 AD but furnished in the 1800’s. it was chocked full of treasures including a Roman era pissoire in the marble bathroom. The kitchen was fascinating with 400 year old amphorae to hold the olive oil, wine, etc.

The other was the Sousse Archeological Museum—an embarrassment of riches. There were a dozen of the rooms with the floors covered with 2000 year old Roman mosaics that we walked on—the more special ones were displayed on the walls. We had Neptune on a chariot pulled by horse/fishes in the sea, Baccus the wine god—they were all there!

Tomorrow I leave for Monastir, just down the coast from Sousse.

Regards,

Carol

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