My Little Astonishment : Tunisia

I believe that part of living happily is to keep an astonishment level of a child. I also believe that the shortest way to stay creative and to know more is to ask questions; the more you ask, the more you learn, and the more you get inspired.

I used to take my curiosity with me everywhere I go; ask people simple questions even if I already know the answers. The more they talk, the more I learn.

In 26th of May, 2016, I was in Tunisia for the first time of my life as a part of Enpcat program. Actually, it was the first time for me to travel aboard, so I came back with great deal of astonishment!

Following are some of them.

1-The whole nation is obsessed with tuna and Eggs!

Brik with Tuna…and Eggs!

For some unknown reasons, Tuna -or Tun as they pronounce it- and Eggs are always there when it comes to food. They’re everywhere and at all possible ways of cooking. Also, I didn’t like their “KusKus” which is widely used instead of rice. After spending a week there, and dining at around 8 different restaurants, I can claim that the Tunisian food looks better than its tastes. This, or the Tunisian cuisine isn’t my thing.

2-An open museum for doors

No matter where you’re in Tunisia, I’m sure that you’ll easily find an amazing door hiding somewhere. Doors from different eras come in different sizes, and colors, but they all have one thing in common; they’re simply beautiful.

3-Some doors are big…like really big

4-Very limited snacks and sweets varieties in all kiosks

However, there’s a product named “ Moulin d’or” that really looks nice and it should taste the same.

5- No, it doesn’t

6- Where’s Pepsi?

I didn’t see a single Pepsi can during my stay there. Not even an empty one. You either drink Coca-cola products or “Boga” (which more or less tastes like water with sugar). Pepsi is not the only missing brand there; you can’t also find brands like KFC, MacDonald’s, Starbucks, Pizza hut,…etc.

7-It’s only 9:00 pm and Tunisia is a ghost town!

I live in Cairo, one of the cities that never sleeps, and it was very surprising for me to see empty streets downtown at 9:00 PM. Our group had to travel for 30 minutes to “ Sidi Bou Said” to find a decent cafe that will allow us to stay till 12:00 AM. Tunisians, why are you doing this to yourselves?

8-I liked that small gesture

If you’re lucky enough to find a taxi in Tunisia, you’ll find the state welcoming you and giving you a quick orientation about pricing system and a number to call if you need further information, then wishing you a nice stay in Tunis. That gave me the impression that the country is always welcoming and ready to host tourists.

9-Tunisian Women: Freedom to Work ☑

Two Tunisian women working as traffic cops

Gender equality in work is not cliche’ at Tunisia…it’s a daily reality. I saw women working in all positions starting from airport employees, to traffic officers, passing by providing and preparing shisha in small cafes.

10-Tunisian Women: Street Rights 

If you like it…wear it!

Unfortunately, most of the axioms in the Arab world are life goals that we have to fight for, especially when it comes to women rights. Believe it or not, Tunisian women have rights in the streets… just like men! You can see their confident walking steps. Their freedom to wear whatever they want or express themselves the way they see suitable. Their sharp facial expressions loudly say “I OWN the streets just like you”. If you’re not familiar with the Arab world let me tell you that those rights worth celebrating for.

11-Tunisian Women: Fighting Harassment ☑

“Hi-five if you are fed-up with harassment like me”.An anti-harassment movement organized by AIESEC.

Although I didn’t see a single harassment incident, they are still educating the community and spreading awareness.

12-Selfie with the Minister !

The minister is here!

I think that the Tunisian revolution succeeded somehow in returning the power to the people. That was obvious when I met the minister of finance, Mr. Selim Shaker. His mentality and tone of voice showed that he knows that he’s at the end an employee trying to serve the nation through his position. I can’t remember when was the last time I was that close to a minister…too close that I took a selfie with him. The minister came to Startup Haus in the morning to welcome the entrepreneurs in Tunisia and encourage them. The man was down to earth that he came to the place quietly without the traditional parade and bodyguards; just two of his assistants and his wonderful presence.

13-Guess what…Mailing boxes in the streets are used as actual mail boxes!!!

Post car is actually collecting mails from Downtown-Tunis

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the postman coming out of the car to collect mails from a mailing box in the street to actually deliver them! Excuse my Egyptian background, but I have always though that mailboxes in the streets are connected somehow to a black hole.

14- Pottery that amuses your eyes

Pottery for sale in “El Madinah” market

Forget about the weight limit in your flight back, just grab some colorful pottery and spend the rest of your life eating in delightful tableware.

15- It’s time for a Global Movement

At the beginning, we all thought that the contamination is contained in Egypt only, but sadly no, the virus has reached Tunisia. Please do something before other countries get infected by this shirt.

16- Is that Arabic?

A sample of the ads that’s written in Arabic and I still can’t relate!

I never though that I’ll have a language barrier when I travel to an Arab country. It was shocking for me to find myself communicating with my colleagues in English because it was easier for all of, rather than trying to understand each other’s accent. Also, dealing with locals in the streets was a real pain, because they use a strange mix of French and their own version of Arabic.

17- Holaaa…they have a parking system that works!

A parking device that issues tickets.

Cairo -The largest city in the Arab world— tried to implement a decent parking system for public streets years ago, and it completely failed. I wasn’t astonished that Tunisia has successfully implemented one, I was rather astonished because it’s working on solar energy.

18- One Arab nation…One nightmare.

Despite all the differences between the two nations, we all agree to hate that stupid yellow iron hand called “Kalabsh”. If you park in a wrong place and hinder the traffic movement; this “Kalabsh” will punish you -and the whole community too- by forcing your car to stay longer in that place…very smart.

19-”Fruit Sec” Everywhere

Between each two stores named “Fruit Sec” there’s another store that is also called “Fruit Sec” which is a french word means “Dried Fruits” . For me, they’re normal crackers, and I don’t see anything special that makes the locals crazy about them. When I asked, they told me that the consumption of those snacks is high because people are used to eating them while drinking beer, but I’m not convinced.

20- It’s beautiful

Peaceful street in Carthage

You can easily fall in love with Tunisia. It’s clean, green, quiet, historical, organized, secular, and people-friendly city with a lot of common sense.

*Bonus Advice*

Lumia 535

Don’t travel with Lumia 535 because you deserve better front and back cameras.