Thursday, 28 March 2013

last nights in tunisia

All the cheap decent hotels in Tunis are booked up because the World Social Forum is meeting here this week.  Unfortunately Slim and Faten can't host us as they have other guests but then Slim contacts us to say he has an empty house he's waiting to rent out, so come and stay there instead.  We jump at the chance - we want to see them before we leave.  We arrange to meet Slim and wait for him on a street corner in a newish suburb of modern appartment buildings.  We're not certain of being in the right place and the locals probably think the same.   A woman stops to ask if we need any help.  We ask if we can use her mobile to phone Slim and she not only obliges but tells him exactly where we are.  There are no street names we can see.
home for a couple of nights in Tunis

Slim suggests we go straight out to meet his other couch-surfers and a friend who also has a visitor - he laughingly refers to us as the International Brigade - and leads us to an old hotel at the seafront that is heaving with diners and drinkers in several patios and dining areas.  It seems a world away from the Tunisia we have been seeing.  He generously  treats us all to drinks and answers some of our questions about his country.

a night out in Tunis
One thing that intrigued us about him was his huge Facebook following - he has over 5000 friends. The principal reason for this seems to be that he began posting things when the Arab Spring began and attracted followers.  He describes himself as apolitical but would probably get involved in politics if only his Arabic was better.  (Slim had most of his education in French and for work uses French most of the time.)  He appears to remain optimistic about his country's future but knows that there is still a long way to go for this nascent democracy.  Our fingers remain crossed for them.

We are taking a night ferry back to Palermo from Tunis and at the port meet Ryan , a young Aussie who we had alredy met at the hotel in Mahdia.  As the evening progresses and our departure gets delayed we also get to chat with a German traveller and a French couple on recumbent bicycles.  After immigration and customs we have to wait with them on the quayside with the car passengers whilst the ferry is loaded up with freight in a frenzy of activity.  A man checks our passports and boarding passes.  We wait another hour.  Then two other men approach and ask for our passports again.  We can finally board.  As we push up the ramp onto the cardeck two more men ask to see our passports.  We growl at them.  Up in the passenger lounge we lay out some cushions on the floor and join the other passengers who are already fast asleep.  Tomorrow we will be back in Palermo and we're looking forward to getting back on the bikes.
"passports? again??" with Sylvie & Serge on the dock

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