Tunisia – not smelling of Jasmin

There is nothing like being proved right about something to make you like it. In Tunis, Sousse, Kairoun and Sfax the cities provided a backdrop to our disscussions about how they felt like like they were waiting for something. Consequently when on Friday our louage, as Tunisia calls the serveece, was stopped by a neat line of rocks across the road outside Metlouie we were not surprised at all. Protesters milling around, stopping traffic into the mining town in Gafsa governorate seemed to explain the atmosphere, rather than confusing us.

Tunisians are pretty keen to chat, and none of the people we talked to thought the revolution had changed anything. In Egypt we met people who were inspired by the revolution and others who were disillusioned with it, people who were determined to create a country worthy of its martyrs and people who thought the revolutionaries had already lost. In Tunisia only a group of students Gerard met thought anything had even started to change. The students from Sidi Bouzid, where the revolution started, who invited us to stay with them, were completely uninterested in politics.

We talked about all this as we waited on the road for a couple of hours, watching the police watch the townsfolk watch us before our driver decided to take us over a desert track. My boyfriend checked the news for us and read it to us over the phone. Like much of the south Gasfa province had been on strike the day before.

Tunisians have told us a lot (blue repels mosquitoes, the yellow doors in Tunis are on houses that belonged to money loving Jews) and we might now be able to explain the weird atmosphere in Tunisia, but we will never understand Tunisians obsession with complicated change manoeuvres. They have way more small denomination coins than Egypt, but instead of handing them over they will go to any lengths (while reckoning in thousands of milliems, in French) to work out a way of giving one a note. If you buy something for, say, eight dinar they’d definitely prefer to take 22 and give you a ten dinar note than accept a ten and give you two as change. Nor will we ever understand why they go to bed so early – we arrived in Tripoli, Libya on Wednesday and, since leaving the airport, have loved everything.


Author: adventuresinarabic

I'm studying Arabic in Damascus, living through the Arab Spring and blogging about my experiences hear.

2 thoughts on “Tunisia – not smelling of Jasmin”

  1. AHHHHH its that gypsy “luck money” and the pesyanne French influence !
    Oli, don’t forget that Tunisia was once ruled by that most polygot of European nations – FRANCE – the one that introudced “Madame Giullotene” plus the modernist arabic movement to throw off the dreaded Hajib, allied with the Nazi trouncing of ‘Merica’s finest in the Kasserine pass, set to the backdrop of roman “bread basket” ecomomics, witch steamrolled the Lyno Punic confict…………
    inish allah its a complex country wrapped up in a modern enigma, without the clout of the gulf states oil and the Maroocan hasish input into europe
    – unforunatly Tunisia is in a political/monetary hinterland, where the only way it can survive is like the trucial sates of the U.A.E. by attracting “safe” tourisim

  2. Stayed in Sidi Bousaid in around 1984 where the BBC stringer, Tanya Matthews lived in a lovely old house. Incredible to imagine it was the starting point for revolution.

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