Thursday, August 11, 2022

Tunisia July 2022

Re: my last post, JenK you got it. Women have had the right to vote in Tunisia since 1958, they can have abortions since 1973, they can run for office, but women are not allowed in cafes or restaurants. 


Finally Africa! I'm 5 for 7 on continents of Earth. While the Maghreb (northern states of Africa) is quite close to Germany, I had no opportunity until now to see it. 

My cousin and his wife are missionaries there, and they invited us. It's illegal to be a Christian missionary in Tunisia, a Muslim country. I was wondering why we never went to a restaurant on our visit. Now I know.

There were newborn twins on the plane, the father sat near us and it turns out a baby can eat almost continuously for 2 hours! That dude kissed his baby so many times with his scratchy beard, it was adorable.

Cow truck.

Did you know Luke Skywalker's home planet was filmed in Tunisia? You can travel to the Star Wars sets that are preserved, but we couldn't. It's not advisable to go deep into the desert this time of year. It's 130 degrees F! That's cuz of the binary suns *lol*

J was surprised I wanted to go to Africa in the hottest part of the year. I laughed, "It's gonna be hotter in Germany. We're gonna repeat our escape from Seattle's heat wave in California again!" Indeed, we did (well, one day).  

Our hotel had mostly French and Arabic channels, but thankfully they had 5 German stations. This is the news coming from Cologne, in our area of Germany, where the newscasters tried to get creative to avoid the heat. 

We stayed in a fancy resort on the beach with 4 swimming pools (and no hot tubs, imagine why not?). My husband bought the "all inclusive" package that included three buffet meals per day and free beverages, including alcohol. I've never stayed anywhere where they bring you a bottle of your choice of wine automatically when you sit down. And it's COLD! And you can take it back to your room!

But it was rough, the humidity. It was too hot to sit on the beach in the shade and drink free cocktails. We spent most of our time hiding. I'd never been to a place where the locals actually hide from the weather during the day, and come out at night. 

This is our hotel balcony door. The steam is on the *outside* of the glass! Our AC worked sufficiently.

We had a lovely garden-side view (the ocean was probably too expensive, and definitely too much partying noise). I never went out on this balcony, it was suffocating out there.

There are activities directors prowling around trying to get you to sign up for a horsey ride or camel ride. Omar greeted us in German (they assumed we understood German and were correct, how strange!). He was nice but this is how I was able to get him to back off. I said, "Look, I'm not here in July by choice. I'm not going outside for any reason unless necessary. If the weather changes, come back to us and we'll go somehwere with you." It worked. I think the fact that he never saw us outside the building also helped quiet him down. He kept his communication to a friendly "Guten Morgen" every day. 

We were targeted by taxis, which was actually really cool. I've never had taxis hunt me down, based on my skin color, and we certainly did need rides when we did go out. Did you know there are no driving rules, at all, in Tunisia? I was so scared, the lines on the highway/traffic circles are not even suggestions, they're not there. People use their cars to threaten other cars, almost touching them. Pedestrians scoot between the cars and people shout out their windows at them. There is no such thing as a child seat, and we saw a lot of motorcyles/mopeds with, for example,  a dude and his two kids hanging on, one kid standing in front, one in back, shoes dangling on the pavement, no helmets of course. Also, there are no seat belts, so we just held on and literally prayed. Most of the taxis were beyond their useful lifespan but somehow managed it down the road without much suspensions. One taxi driver handed me the plastic handle to open my window, I had to affix it myself, how funny! The good thing was every taxi driver was so unexpectedly friendly. I missed that so much.There are almost zero friendly taxi drivers in Germany.

This was in a traffic circle, one of those complex ones with multiple lanes. That is a little girl and little boy on the moped. I wonder how often the little boy loses a sandal going around a turn.

Bougainvillea, just like Hawaii. Gorgeous, and in all colors, like weeds, everywhere.

Our hotel.

Too hot, no one was enjoying this indoor/outdoor restaurant.

J's face shows his disappointment at learning that the beaches in Tunisia are often cut off by private property, so you cannot just stroll along them to find geocaches. Oh well, it was too hot anyway.

My cousin's wife is clever at identifying safe-looking taxi drivers. One of them was not and he was a little agressive despite our shaking our heads. Finally I yelled at him, "You look like a criminal, go away!" I sincerely hope I didn't embarrass my cousin's wife, on the chance that he understood English.

I'd never seen such litter, not even in Rome. I was warned by my cousin but I have never seen trash being washed up on the seashore by the waves. I was struck with the thought, how long do you have to go back in time until you find a trash-free Tunisia. Obviously before the development of plastic. I wonder....


I have to tell you about the food. I had been warned on Trip Advisor and Wikipedia to not expect fancy food, or food with seasonings. "Loveless food" is what is said about it. Every table had a salt and pepper shaker for people who like seasonings. However to be fair there is a wonderful chili paste called Harissa, famous in Maghreb that you can put on everything for some flavor. My cousin's wife bought me three tubes of it on our last day. The hotel cannot be blamed, they serve such a mix of Europeans and a lot of Russians, they have to be careful. And even Trip Advisor said that no one gets sick here.

Mutilation of watermelon for aesthetic purposes is never OK. I hope some employee got to take them home and enjoy them.

Couscous is the national dish, I believe, and it was very refreshing with tons of parsley, ice cold.

I only learned after I was home again, that alcohol is not a thing in Tunisia. Only in tourist areas.

My purple armband meant I got wine offered to me, and as much bottled water as we wanted. I was worried we'd run out of water because tap water is suspect in Tunisia, in fact they recommend a Typhoid immunization before visiting. I brushed my teeth with bottled water. But I appreciated the free bottled water so much!

Lemon juice and my amazing watermelon juice. I joked that they should just roll the machine to my table.
We called this "the grey matter." Name on the sign below. Same word in all languages!

J eating dubious sausages and an omelette from the egg bar, and my breakfast of honeydew, a cooked egg, cold potatoes without salt, and eggplant. And watermelon juice!

I'd never been to such an extensive buffet, not even in Vegas. Every day, so many choices. But there was a problem. Almost nothing was labeled. I don't waste food and I didn't want to take food I had no idea about, and not eat it. So I stayed with food I could identify. This means I didn't enjoy the lovely salad bar, ever, because I had no clue about the dressings. I never ate any of the cheese bar, cuz what are they? I never had the cold cuts, no idea, even though I know all that meat was Halal/Kosher. There was a gigantic bread section with croissants, bagettes, so many pastries, but I was afraid to try them.

There was some seafood but mostly it was not edible by us. Since the food had no label, J accidentally got a pasta casserole and found an entire octopus in there. He is not into seafood at all so that was quite a shock. I was thrilled to see a dish with shrimp, but when I tasted it, they had ruined the shrimp. It had been cooked to the consistency of sand. Finally one day there was fish on the grill (they had a grill, pizza bar, crepe bar, egg bar, and pasta bar every day). I don't know what fish that was, and I don't normally appreciate having the head of the fish still on, but it was fresh grilled and wonderful. There is nothing better than a fresh caught fish from the grill.

Every day there were local foods in huge Tunisian pots, and they were quite good. Mostly bell peppers, eggplant, chicken legs, in a dark sauce. 

Every night J had ice cream, and the pistachio is an African specialty, it tasted like freshly ground pistachio nuts. 

Every day I ate big slices of honeydew and they were the sweetest honeydews I'd eaten. They even served honeydew juice! 

And then there was the freshly pressed watermelon juice. Only available at breakfast, but offered in one of those chilled juice machines where you can see the juice inside. It was red, the label was French, I had no idea what it was but when I took my first sip I was overwhelmed. Watermelon is my favorite food on the planet, and I didn't even know you can have it fresh squeezed. I drank 11 glasses that first day, and every day after, between 8 and 10. I eventually learned to bring a larger glass cuz I got sick of refilling mine. Along the streets were trucks overflowing with watermelons, my version of heaven on earth.

I'd never been to a buffet where there are employees constantly buzzing around cleaning up after people, mostly mopping if anyone spilled some drops of coffee. And the employees got to know us the first day and one of them, Mohammed,  was absolutely thrilled that I could write my name in Arabic, and my name is somewhat Arabic/Hebrew so it was a surprise for him. 

One day I had to try the donut bar. Someone was making fresh deep-fried french donuts, what they call Beignet in France. People kept going there and getting multiples, not only one donut, so I got brave and took one, fresh out of the oil. 

I took a bite and was totally surprised by the lack of flavor. It was a delightful texture, kind of sticky, you could pull it apart and it would stretch before tearing. It was wonderfully hot. But the taste, it tasted like deep fryer. I later learned that usually they are served with powdered sugar. That would be nice. I'm happy I got the chance to eat a real french donut. Cuz I'm probably never going back to France.

See what I mean about the lack of labeling? Those pretty little dishes were so carefully prepared, and I have no idea what they are. OK the big one looks like feta...I think that bird thing is a honeydew.

I loved being greeted in three different languages, sometimes on the same day. Bonjour, Hello, and Guten Tag. I don't think anyone spoke Arabic to us. 

Next up, a trip to the local Nabeul market, getting into the Mediterranean (for the first time, fully!)....


TeresaA said...

What a fabulous vacation

Tina said...

Watermelon is life! The best part is that you can eat as much as you want! I would have tried a small bite of everything except the seafood. I like fish but that octopus...I would have died. LOL! I love reading your blog!

lytha said...

Teresa, I'm so happy to have had the opportunity. Not many people have someone to show them around a foreign land.

Tina, Thank you so much. I would go to no heaven where there are no Arabian horses or watermelons. HA, that would never happen! You're right, I should have tried tiny bites of everything, as an experiment....except I couldn't have taken just a part of a slice of a cold cut or cheese slice, that would not be appropriate. I would have had to take entire slices and that would be too much to waste. And of course all those bread rolls and pastries, you can't just take a part of one of them: ) Strange thing - last night I dreamt I was back there at the Khayam Garden resort and they had all asian food, that you cook on your own table on a grill.

AareneX said...

I would have eaten all the food (although I wouldn't normally eat octopus)! ALL THE FOOD.

So, why did you go to Tunisia in July, if you knew it would be too hot to do anything? Since you have relatives there, didn't they tell you the best time to visit? I'm confused.

lytha said...

Aarene, We were only given the window of July for our visit, so we took it: )

Tina said...

That is a shame. I wish buffets like that would do like a one biter so that people could try more.