Nothing Else Matters.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Tunisia  ,
Friday, November 9, 2007

It was that time of the year again. The last time I saw Alf Kåre was in December last year during our quick spin around the Baltic States. This year the choice finally fell on Tunisia. I am not sure what was the deciding factor making us ditch destinations like; Malta, Belgium, Ukraine and Russia. Was it the weather? A new continent for Alf Kåre?

Since my original flight from Madrid to the capital Tunis got rescheduled, I had to fly out one day earlier than Alf Kåre. I had prebooked a hotel including airport pickup in advance. I know guys, have I already lost my "independently, without prior arrangements" touch completely? Many people have warned me that there's a short fall to all-inclusive and pink wristbands. So I have to be careful. At least I had done little or no additional planning. I knew practically nothing about Tunisia. Hannibal, Phoenicians, El Jem, The Bardo Museum, Carthage, beach resorts and about 98% Muslims. Popular with French tourists I think. What else would I be able learn during a short week? Having just landed, switching on my mobile phone, I knew it would be a not so ordinary day. I got coverage with the main Tunisian mobile operator, but for some reason the name of the company was badly misspelled on my phone. Curious. I had to track down my airport pickup guy and check his mobile, but it would probably be in Arabic. If he had a mobile that is. Would he have a sign with my name on? If so, would it be in Arabic too? Or maybe French? I had always liked the idea of someone calling me Monsieur.

He didn't seem to have a phone, but he spoke French and drove an old battered Renault. The passenger seat belt didn't work. Looking at all the other old Renault's "zooming" past, we apparently did not need one. I made an effort looking at as many cars as possible between the airport and the hotel. They all had broken seat belts it seemed. My driver confirmed this. "It is broken, but you don't need it. Nobody will stop us". I always find it comforting when taxi drivers around the world think the only reason I buckle up is because it is the law.

"You will get your passport back on checkout."

"Sure, no problem. They used to do the same around Europe back in the Eighties as well. It's a brilliant custom, so I am not sure why they stopped doing it."

It was one of those hotels where you hide the almost used up toilet roll before leaving in the morning, just to make sure room service will install a brand new and crispy one, so you have more than just two lousy leaves when you come running back in the afternoon after a dodgy shish kebab.

It's only 3PM and nice and sunny outside. I am walking down one of the main avenues, my stomach is rumbling, but I have no idea what to expect from the Tunisian cuisine. Do they do Falafels and Couscous or is it Fromage and Poulet "For alle penga"? I really need some food to lighten up my mood. Instead I stop by a book store to look for a French-English phrasebook. I guess it's a waste of time as I don't expect to find phrases like "Shouldn't you invest in plumber to make the toilet flush or a door lock that can be locked, before you invest in a Piccolo to take your luggage to the room, not leaving before you tip him as if you were staying at the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore? Parlez vous Francais!" I leave the book store, desperately seeking that Falafel. The memories come flooding back to me. Again I am on my own in a foreign country. Nobody asked me to come here, but I am not sure if I should just laugh and play along or get annoyed instead. You see, before getting ripped off paying double price at a sandwich shop (I know, extremely adventurous), about 10 con artists stopped me on the street. They had nothing new to say. I had heard it all before.

"Do you remember me? I saw you at the hotel earlier. I work there."

"I don't remember seeing you."

"Sure, in the reception."

"Nope."

"Where are you staying?"

"Why do you ask me where I am staying, didn't you just say you work there?"

"Ehh.."

"I am staying at the Crook and Hustler B&B."

"That's it, I work there."

"Sure you do, see you there then."

I continued my Falafel hunt...

"Where are you from?"

"I am from Greenland."

"Ah, I have a brother living there. He is a car mechanic."

"You are the third guy I meet today who got a brother changing tires and oil on Greenland".

"Eh, do you want to go for a beer? It is close. I will pay for everything."

"Sure you will."

"Very nice girls. It's down that alley."

"Don't think so dude."

"I am a student, do you have some money for food?"

"Didn't you just say you were going to pay for everything?"

"Ehh.."

I continue my stroll around the different souks in the Medina. It reminds me a lot about Marrakech. Much of the same stuff is on sale, but the shop owners are generally less aggressive and don't try to stuff a tea pot down your throat all the time. But by all means, if you are brave enough to enter a shop, the story is much the same. Marrakech was quite a bit more fun though.

A few hours later I am on my way back to the Scoundrel and Sleazeball B&B. I have located beer, but given up trying to find a place screening Real Madrid in the Champions League. It is just after 9PM and I have run out of things to do. The only guys wanting to talk to me, also wanted something else. My money. So I decided to call it the day. Just outside the hotel there is a huge roundabout. In the middle of it there is a Big Ben like tower, or is it a Minaret? There's also a fountain, and in the water steam from it, they are projecting a film. The picture is blurry, but I have seen the guy on posters and flags all over town. Is it their National Day or an election? Who is he, the President, the Prime Minister or maybe a King? Do Muslims have Kings? The most bizarre however is that the film in the fountain steam in the huge roundabout in this foreign country is accompanied by Metallica's monster hit "Nothing Else Matters". The music is blasted out on what I assume is Tunisian manufactured loudspeakers. Enough said...
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