Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I'm back from Tunisia. I'm alive, there is no war! That I saw. Of.
Way too fucking short. And really annoyingly, didn't get to ride a camel. Instead got to ride a quad bike to a bunch of camels.
It was quite weird to touch African soil again. I haven't touched African soil for a fuck long time. So texted all my mates down south in a flurry of cocktail-infused excitement, Am back on the continent, motherlovers. Although I guess I might as well be in fucking Latvia, since I'm only two hours from London.
I haven't been to a lot of Muslim countries, (Turkey only really), and certainly never been to North Africa before. So this is what I learnt as a fly-by-night tourist in Tunisia:
Never argue with airport officials
Yes I know this already, but I mean really. Really don't argue with them.
The trip didn't begin well. This always happens to me. I get questioned why I don't have the right visa, chaos ensues, I end up crying, and then they kick me out of the country (Canada, 2002.)
Anyway, this time, the dude just took mine and the Brit's passports and made us wait in a pleather-interiored waiting room with TV footage of the revolution happening in front of us. The Brit was only there by association, given his passport gets him in everywhere.
The visa stand at the airport in Tunis had no queues. There was nothing going down. The only thing going on was a fuckload of smoking. Officials in uniform, gaffing away, indoors. More about this later. And yet, he had issues printing out my visa.
"Should've got it in London," he says.
"No I shouldn't have. I should've got it right here. As every single embassy site told me to do
"No. They are all wrong. Tell me why I should give you visa."
"Dude. The woman at Air Tunis let me on the plane. "WHY IS THERE A VISA STAND HERE? IS THIS FOR SHOW? IS THIS FOR OTHER PASSPORTS? IS THIS A DREAM?"
[Lots of heated discussion. He lights another cigarette.]
Eventually got it, with a firm warning that next time I should get it in London.
Arabs gaff like it's a national sport
I thought the Greeks were bad. Muslims don't drink alcohol, but they know how to smoke.
Some dropped cigarettes on the floor in the middle of the airport and didn't bother to stuff them out with their shoes. Fire hazards aside, there's nowhere that is smoke-free. So wear a gas mask.
Tunisia is a beautiful country
Bar cigarette smoke everywhere and cunty officials, it's a diverse little place. With a lot of green areas too. We went to the world's fourth most Holy City, Kairouan.
Mecca is the first, God knows what the other two are (New York?). We also saw 'Africa's largest Colosseum."
Dude. There are other Colosseums? Outside of Rome? In Africa?
El Jem - where it's based - is insane. Where people fought...camels. We stayed in Hammamet, which had this beautiful old 'medina' (old walled city) there.
We took quad bikes into the back country where we saw four old tanks from World War II. Just parking off there, discarded and preserved by heat and dust.
We got two full course meals a day, where they served chocolate mousse for breakfast. Four star hotel, transfers, flights, all inclusive.
We smoked a lot of shisha. Shuddup. It doesn't count as normal smoking.
The only thing that'll make your balls drop is the price of alcohol, but then it's London prices all the same.
You will get hassled
Apparently it's not as full-on as Egypt or Turkey, but you do get hassled. They see you coming miles away.
Most of the time it goes like this.
"No thanks we don't need to buy that tagine pot you're holding."
Them: "English? French?"
Them: You don't recognise me? I'm from the hotel."
Them: It's free. Here take it, it's free."
"Non merci." [Now running]
Them: "I give it to you one dinar. Just one dinar." (about 50p)
Wash, rinse, repeat. That same conversation will happen at least 10 times a day. You just power through.
It's 3 hours from London
I'm quite keen to explore more of north Africa now. It's the same distance to Sicily or Malta.
The food is very agreeable
A little bit of spice, but nothing that blows your head off your shoulders. Tagines are made up of the finest cous cous, and then a stew made of chicken or lamb.
Lots of olives. Olives fucking everywhere, and tapas-y Mediterranean type fare.
We ate like it was 1998. (When I had a metabolism)
Their second language is French
We got by with my French for four days. As English is not speaky very good. I had a long chat to the cab driver in French about how he chooses his wive(s). C'etait vraiment bon, oui?