I have to start out with this photo showing the view from our hotel window. I’d like to say the 5am call to prayer woke us up, but it didn’t, as tired as we were. Anyhow, yesterday we woke up very late (10 am or so) and went down to breakfast which is nothing but croissants and strong coffee- which is pretty much all I ever need for breakfast, God bless the French!
After breakfast, we walked a couple of blocks to the “Medina”, which means city in Arabic I guess. It really means the old part, I gathered, as the buildings and streets got really old and really narrow. In the center of the medina is the mosque, and spoking/spiraling out from there are a specific order to the shops. In this medina, there are 2 main alleys through it from the end of Ave Bourgiba. The one on the left is crammed full of tourists and vendors desperate for your business. If you go down the one on the right, you’ll probably be the only westerner there, and the vendors aren’t out for blood. Instead of trinkets, they’re selling clothes and shoes and sunglasses and stuff we get at the mall. Anyhow, this particular day we went the tourist route, and I have to say I’ve never seen anything like this place. Any touristy trinket you could hope for could be found here, everything from decorative metalwork to miniature “boubly boubly”, which I found out later is actually called chicha (again, more on that later). Anyhow, B left us there on our own, so that he could go back to the apartment and meet some more workers who were collecting more of his stuff. The 3 of us had a blast exploring the medina on our own. There were lots of side alleys you could turn on and get completely lost, and we saw several really cool Arabic style doors like the one on the right with Ryan looking back at the metalworker.
Anyhow, if you stay on the main alley, you eventually run into the mosque. We weren’t sure if we could go inside, they seemed to be charging admission, but a nice (?) if not a little persistent man named Mohammed offered to give us a special view over the mosque. I read about stuff like this in the guide book before I went… people who offer to give you a tourist photo opportunity which requires you to walk through their carpet shop and then put on the high pressure sales as you try to leave. Anyhow, we tried to lose this guy in the crowd of people but he must get that every day and knew how to find us. This guy wouldn’t take no for an answer, and we hadn’t even been in XXXXX 24 hours yet and were still pretty overwhelmed with the culture shock. Whatever the reason, we decided to follow him. We wound around all these crazy streets and got completely separated from the rest of the tourists, and felt pretty nervous we might not be able to find our way back. Sure enough he took us through a 3 or 4 story berber carpet shop, right up onto the roof, with an excellent view of the mosque and the medina (see photo to the left). Well, we offered to tip him for his time, but he insisted on no tip, and said he would take us back. On the way back, I knew this guy had some angle he was going to work on us, but tried to make friends anyway and worked up enough courage to carry on some small talk in French. I’m pretty sure I had to have him repeat everything 3 or 4 times in French until I could understand, even then he would get tired and just use broken English to communicate. Obviously his English was better than my French. Anyhow, sure enough, before he took us back he wanted to take us to his father’s perfume shop “just to show it to us”. Although he wouldn’t let us walk out without buying something. I found a couple of bottles for Lesa, and negotiated a price in French (I felt confident in my french numerals). He still wanted a tip for the tour after that.
After escaping the medina, with a few souvenirs, we hired a taxi to take us to B’s apartment, actually Cafe Cote-du-Cote since that was the easiest landmark to describe to a taxi driver. The ride should have taken 15 minutes and cost no more than 4 dinar. We were taken for a tour, instead, despite my repetitive “Je vous aller a cafe cote-du-cote!”. In the end, it took over an hour and cost 24 dinar. I didn’t have enough of a grasp of French to argue with him so we paid it.
We went and grabbed lunch with B, eating shwarmas again, then spent the afternoon packing his place. For supper we took taxis to another worker couple’s house, I’ll call them E & S, to avoid using their names on the internet. We took some several suitcases full of supplies and toys for their family. Notice the ancient Roman aqueduct in the background as I cross this busy street with some of the suitcases. It’s incredible to think of the history and the stories this country has to tell. Early Christianity had some very important people and events that came from XXXXX, and this place switched hands more times than… I don’t know what.
Anyhow, E & S have a beautiful home, at the end of a palm-lined street, with 3 bedrooms and 12′ ceilings. I could almost envision myself living here like that, where as B’s apartment was not some place I could imagine raising a family. After a good meal, good fellowship, and prayer time with E & S, we played wait-for-a-taxi-and-hope-you-make-it-there game again. Cam and I got back to the hotel and weren’t able to sleep and stayed up till 2:30am talking.