Well, I know we’ve been in France for a month, and I haven’t posted any pictures. I’ve still been thinking about Tunisia. However, we’re leaving France in a week, so I thought I would gather a gallery of photos from Tunisia so I could get to France before we leave.
We started our first week at an all inclusive resort. My favourite memories from that week are about no-rules waterslides, squash baked with harissa at dinner, swimming with the kids, and hanging out all together watching arabic kids’ TV and shouting when we heard a number we knew.
Here’s Jet going down backwards. We also tried headfirst, all together, two people on a tube, headfirst on a tube facing up (terrifying–you can;t see the drops), and anything else we could think of. Tayo went down a tube slide and found a kid who had stopped partway down. She wiped that kid right out. So now we know why that rule exists, generally.
When I look at these pictures I can see how the kids have changed! 2 of 3 have outgrown those suits, and their faces are changing. And despite the glee in these pictures, I know that this trip has taught them to play together more smoothly and more often. They have such fun together.
After the resort, we rented a horrible little apartment in a beach town called Nabeul. It was near the beach, but to get there we had to walk through a field that maybe once had houses or a hotel on it. There was rubble and garbage everywhere. It felt a bit like we missed a major distruptive event that left the tired hotels on either side intact. That was the first indication we could see of how the revolution had affected the economy. Nabeul had a terrible scraping feeling, and the desparation of the hawkers of tourist kitch in the market did not match the friendly relaxed feel described in the guide book. Though, to be fair, it was Ramadan, so everyone was fasting, and it was over 40 degrees most days, so maybe we didn’t catch them at their best moments.
Here’s our apartment. The kids liked to be off the floor because of the cockroaches.
The Nabeul museum was wonderful. We learned all about mosaics and the Punic (people of Carthage, but from a shortening of Phonecian) goddess Tanit. She’s in the middle line of photos next to a griffin. She has a lion head, because she is a goddess of war sometimes. Her symbol is an ankh with arms. Later on, she was taken in by the Romans and associated with Juno, the way that dominating societies co-opt old gods to bring everyone into the new beliefs. (I’m talking about you, goddess of renewal, Oestra/Easter)
We also learned all about how to make fish sauce, called garum, which was a main export of the ancient Roman city of Neapolis. They shipped this favourite delicacy all over the Roman empire. The basic recipe is fish guts, unuseable fish bits, spices, and lots and lots of salt. Then you let it ferment in vats for a while, then in barrels, then finally, mmm, it’s ready to eat. The vats they made it in are huge. Much taller than I am, with a brick-parquet pattern at the bottom. Here they are, below. That’s a heck of a lot of fish sauce. Here’s Tayo showing the parquet tile. It was not for fancy–just for work spaces. Zaylis is showing us a mosaic floor from a house hear the fish sauce factory (um, the smell?). Zay wants you to know she was overwhelmed by heat that day and only went out in the sun for that picture. It was tooooooo hohhhhhhht, she whines, even in remembrance.
Next, Jet is sitting in the fountain the House of Nymphs. She’s looking at Oceanus, the anceint ocean god, from before Neptune. I loved the mosaics, seeing them in place, and the sewers under the streets, and the well in the house, and the central courtyard. Also it was so hot that I kept getting out of breath and light headed. Jet was all over the ruins, climbing and wondering and observing. She found ancient pottery bits! Poor Zay was so hot she could hardly think. She is sitting in the tiny bit of shade. Why did we go exploring at noon? Why?
Our next destination was Tunis, the capital. I loved the Bardo Museum, which has the most Roman mosaics of any museum in the world. I would go back every day for a week, or every week for a month, if I could. The museum is inside the palaces of two Beys of Tunisia from the 1800’s.
We went to Carthage, to see the Punic city that was razed by the Romans after the Cathagenians lost the Punic wars. The Romans knocked everyhting down and then sowed the soil with slat so no one could live there again. Shortly after, they realized that the city actually had a good location, and they began to rebuild. The new Carthage was opened almost exactly 100 years after they ripped the old one down. No word on what soil remediation was required, though. The Roman baths were the most incredible part of the ruins.
Below is a map of Carthage. This is on their coins. The baths are almost completely ruined, so the flat parts you see on top are the floor of the original baths, and the arches are in the basement, holding it up. The tall pillar on the left of the photo is rebuilt, and shows the height of the original ceiling for the first floor. There were two rows of those columns, over the central room. It’s hard to describe the immensity of those columns, but Jet is standing on a plinth of one in a photo, and beside Rich you can see a patch of mosaic that would have been on the floor.
The Carthage Museum:
Tayo made a nest, kissed Jet goodbye.
And finally, we spent Eid in Sidi Bou Said, famous for it’s doors. We ate doughnuts made fresh in front of us, had Eid candy, wore Jasmine flowers, ate gelato, watched the vendors make the bread for kebabs, admired the families out in their finery and celebrating together, and just generally enjoyed the evening.