#8 (final) Tunisia, Nov. 8, 2005

Dear Everybody,

From Kairouan I got a bus to Sbeitla, a tiny town next to the Roman town of Sufetula, which was established in the 1st C. A.D. It got rich on olive oil production and later it became an important Christian center when the Byzantines took over in the 4th C. A.D. The site was quite beautiful with its Diocletian Triumphal Arch leading to a complex of three lovely temples, all surrounded by remnants of big complex baths with mosaic floors, Byzantine churches with intact baptistries, a cistern, houses, shops, a theater, and an amphitheater along with a restored Roman bridge over the Oued Sbeitla.

Also in tiny Sbeitla I stayed in the lovliest little hotel that was so clean and well maintained, with a nicely served breakfast, all for $8.80 per night. The first night I bought a rotisseried chicken, some bread, tomatoes and pears for dinner in my room (nothing much was open because of Ramadan). I gave my landlady 3/4 of the chicken and half the bread—they hadn’t eaten when I had finished. So the next night she invited me to eat dinner—very nice meal—soup, a briq, rice, escalloped chicken breast, and a pear.

 

 

 

 

The next day I got the bus to Le Kef, a town up in the hills. I spent the afternoon sightseeing in town—lots of little streets ending in steps so I really had had a workout after seeing the Kasbah (fortress),

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a pretty 16th C.

 

 

mosque and a museum in a beautiful 1666 house.

Thursday morning at about 7:30 there were three loud booms, apparently signifying the end of Ramadan. As I walked to the bus station at 8:30 A.M. there were already men congregating in the coffee shops, smoking and drinking tea.

I got a bus that let me off at Dougga, another Roman ruin. When I got off, so did a young Belgian couple that were staying in my hotel. We got a ride to the site (3 km) and discovered that it was closed because of the holiday, Eid.We kind of sneaked a peek here

 

 

 

 

 

and there anyway, as we were ‘returning to the gate’ and while we didn’t get to see everything in detail, we did get a look at most of the important temples.

 

 

 

 

 

It is a colossal ruin, and beautiful, and very old. Some monuments date from 200 B.C., before the Romans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I negotiated with a louage driver to take me 15 km to the Hammam Mellegue, an actual unchanged Roman thermal bath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a thrill to soak in that warm, salty water in the same caldarium that was used 1800 years ago. Ah, to be an African Roman in 2005!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For lunch now that Ramadan is over, I had wine. Unfortunately this modest restaurant didn’t have any reds, which are very good, so I got the rose. My Italian son-in-law says that if you find yourself shutting your eyes as you swallow the first taste, this is NOT a good wine. Well Roberto, my eyes shut on this wine for the first ten swallows. But then it got better!! And the spaghetti tasted Tunisian, not Italian, but it was quite good. So it goes.

I returned to Tunis by bus and stayed at my same hostel in the medina. Also staying there was the lovely Belgian couple that I had met on my excursion to Dougga.  I was looking forward to some great restauranting—I had three nice restaurants all picked out that serve good Tunisian food and wine but they were all three closed on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights, apparently because of the holiday, Eid that follows Ramadan. I did have dinner with some other hostelers, though, in more modest digs with no wine.

I also had henna designs put on my hands like they do for brides. A young man in the medina said he was a professional at this, and did a good job. Of course my hands don’t look like a young bride’s but I’m getting a big kick out of it anyway. It’s supposed to last for a month—we’ll see.

So after some shopping (a tajine, platter and little bowls in a Berber design), some perfume and a little something for the grandkids, I boarded the plane on Tuesday morning, flying from Tunis to Paris, to Amsterdam to Minneapolis—so I’m home!! Although my checked bag is in Paris and will hopefully come today. That Charles de Gaul airport in Paris is a mess and I had a tight connection—I wasn’t surprised when the bag didn’t come. Normally I carry it, but the pottery in my tote bag which I had unfolded was quite heavy and so I thought I should check the backpack, especially with long walks in the airports in Paris and Amsterdam.

In the Amsterdam airport security, I’ve been delayed before but nothing like this time. Having been in Tunisia BY MYSELF was more than the man could bear so he got his supervisor and they both grilled me over and over about what I was doing there. What a drag! It is so annoying to think that a woman traveling alone in an Islamic country drives them crazy. After the grilling they put my carryons back through the X-ray another time and then did a hand check of them, followed by a very thorough hand patting down of me. Of course I was annoyed at the initial ridiculous questioning part and showed it, so it became sort of a power struggle. Northwest airlines in Amsterdam is the only place where I encounter this. When I was talking about this to Marco’s family that met me at the plane, Marco said, “Well, Gramma, when they saw your henna tattoos, they didn’t think you were just an ordinary Gramma!” Maybe he’s right—-.

I can certainly recommend Tunisia as a place to travel, There is so much to see in a small country, the food is good, the weather is great from mid-Sept. to early Nov. (too hot in the summer) and the prices are cheap although the airfare is expensive from the US (not from Europe). The people were very nice and I felt very safe. So—-try it sometime, you’ll like it!

Signing off,

Carol

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One Response to #8 (final) Tunisia, Nov. 8, 2005

  1. Caroline & Floris Vaes says:

    Dear Carol,

    What a fantastic blog: must have been a lot of work creating it. It’s a great portal to all your memories and diaries!
    We enjoyed looking at the pictures in Dougga as we visited it together. We still remember dinner that night and the life story of your doughter you told us: we hope that she and her husband are doing fine in the meantime.
    On the picutres, we look so much younger than we do today…we realize that time is flying and we’re only 30 🙂
    In August we’re having our third child…we’ll let you know if its a boy or girl! For us, it will be a surprise as well!

    Wishing you all the best,
    lots of love from Brussels where you’re always welcome,

    Caroline and Floris, ‘The Belgian Couple’ from your Dougga-story!

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