Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Tunisia....who knew????





the first photo here in tunisia is of the coliseum in el jem...it is very similar to the one in roma so i am told...and here i am with my good friend thalia on our trip to the desert....this place was incredible...the second shot is of the city hall still standing in the ruins of dougga...you can still read the latin on the top and the columns are HUGE!!! the next shot is one of the cool doors in the medina of tunis...jennifer kemper, rick park and i were all wandering there one morning...the left door is for men, the right door is for women and the little door is for children...so beautiful and ornate...the next shot is the sahara desert...it stretches on forever...imagine getting lost in that....the final shot is me on a camel in the sahara desert....he has an arabic name that was something like nigel...what a cool animal...and check out those teeth...whoa!!!!

hey there all...hope everyone is feeling like they have digested their big turkey feasts....i am currently in tunisia...and some have been wondering where that is....well, its this mellow country located between libya and algeria in north africa, on a penisula that juts into the mediterrean sea.....and you should come here....wowowowowow....what a place....it is muslim, but it has also been proclaimed as the "amsterdam" of the muslim world....so i haven't been treated as a second hand citizen as muc,h and people are quite laid back....i came here to visit my friends thalia and rick from seattle, as they are teaching here at the american school...i also got the chance to go to school and watch classes, as well as talk with some classes about antarctica...it was a great day and renewed in me that i need to be in a classroom somewhere in the world come the next teaching year :)

but enough about generalizations...here's what fun i had here....did you know that part of star wars...the first one and phantom menace was filmed in tunisia...as was part of raiders of the lost ark...know why???? the sahara is here...yep....that's right...i have now been to the sahara desert...as a matter of fact, i have ridden a camel in the desert and run up and down some of its dunes...whew is that tiring....the sand is incredible...its so soft...it feels like talc or flour...and it sure gets cold in the night time....we rode camels at sunset and then went out after dinner to the dunes to look at the night sky...it was just beautiful...although the moon was a bit too bright to see many things...oh well...we did this out of a small desert town called el faouar....we were some of the only folks in town :) it was wild....

we also went to the desert town of douz...and stayed in this nice hotel with a hot spring pool...that was quite impressive and comfortable....we went to the market at douz and had a great time...most of the folks i was with bought berber rugs...berbers are the tribes who survive in the desert as nomads...although many no longer travel as much as they are not making enough money to support their families...both berber men and women tattoo their faces...and it reminded me a lot of the maori in new zealand...the market was bustling with activity and it was fun to be there...not so much pressure, like in egypt...there were spices and rugs and ceramics and animals, etc....very cool....

from douz we headed back north...but went through a big salt flat and desert section of tunisia...i was told that part of the original star wars was filmed in that area....i have to say the desert looks very different places than what i imagined...it looks like the mountains of arizona or new mexico in places...not all the smooth and wavy dunes...those don't really happen until you get farther south...although we did ride camels in that section....it was awesome...but the area we were headed was kairouan...this is the fourth holiest city in the muslim world and the great mosque is found there...it is quite beautiful and the pillars are just stunning that hold the mosque up....its interesting though that some of these pillars were taken from many of the historical roman ruins around tunisia....there are so many of them, its incredible....kairouan had a great medina (older part of town where the open markets are located)....again more rugs were bought...but here the other striking thing are the doors of most of the houses....they are just incredible...and then the tile work is mind blowing and beautiful...i really liked this aspect of tunisia and have many pictures of doors and tile work....

then from kairouan we headed back to tunis...the capital and where i was staying....on the ride back though you should have seen how many houses had drying chili peppers on them...long red strings, on white cement houses with blue windows and doors....just stunning....the other major crop you see almost everywhere in tunisia is olive groves...they are everywhere and are one of tunisia main exports...as italy is just across the sea and that is where they press the olives for oil....it was cool to see these groves and how the trees changed due to the amount of rain the region they were located in got...for instance...if it was a place that got low amounts or rain the trees were smaller and farther spaced apart...with just the opposite for areas that get more rain...it was quite interesting to see...

i have visited three roman ruins here in tunisia...one in a town called el jem, one in a place named dougga and one right here in tunis called carthage...these are just breath-taking...its amazing to think of the civilzations that lived here in previous times...the romans, the carthagins, the macedonians, the greeks....so many who came and went before us...you realize just how small a contribution one person makes when you are confronted with this history everywhere you turn...it was cool to see that the latin could still be read in places and that buildings were still standing the test of time....el jem was a coliseum, very similar to the one in rome i am told, as i have not been there yet....but here in tunisia we were allowed to walk through the entire complex...even the dungeons...they had waterways and lifts for the gladiators, just like the one in rome...it was amazing...carthage was a huge site where pieces of it are located all over the place in tunis....people have even found pieces went planting gardens in their backyards...cool huh....and dougga was a massive city...the baths and brothel are still standing, as is city hall....the other striking aspect of these ruins is the mosaics you find everywhere on the floors...some are still there...some have been removed and restored in museums...but all of them are beautiful....and have excellent craftsmanship....

so i have been pleasantly suprised by tunisia...i did no reading or planning for this part of my trip as my focus was to hang with rick and thalia...but it has been one of my favorite stops...and we didn't even make it to the beach...which i have been told is incredible...its the mediterrean sea...how can it not be :) the food is okay...a bit bland at times...they sure love garbonzo beans...which has been great in my opinion...but beer and alcohol is hard to come by...it is muslim here after all...but they do grow grapes and make their own wine...there is a huge french influence and population here and most folks speak arabic and french and a lot know some basic english....so all in all, tunisia has been a wonderful experience...a terrific, laid back place for me to decompress....now i head to paris tomorrow and then amsterdam next week...and then finally will be back in the states....which i am getting excited about...so for some of you...i'll see ya real soon...for others, i'll be in touch....if you have any questions, remember you can always e-mail me....talk soon and i hope everyone is having a good start to their dec....

2 comments:

Thalia said...

It's been fun having dani visit. we've gotten out and seen lots of the sites and had some great experiences. we'll sure miss having dani around - especially our little boy milo! he'll miss her most of all.

Anonymous said...

Hey that Thalia chick looks pretty cute. Is she looking available? Tunisia sounds like a niffty place.