Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tunis, Tunisia

Our second port of call was in Tunis, Tunisa. Yep, that would be in North Africa! We were PUMPED to be able to visit Africa and I could not quit talking about it. We did spring for a tour offered by the cruise line to be extra safe but even though Tunisia is right next to Libya, I wasn't worried to be there. Well, as we were driving through the city the guide was pointing at buildings and talking about how they belonged to Ben Ali and that the revolution was smooth and quick and then he said something about 2011. I said to Forrest--he is getting he English numbers mixed up because he keeps saying 2011. Does he mean 2001? Forrest looked at me incredulously because apparently they JUST had the revolution!! Oops--you can tell I don't watch the news! Right at that moment we drove past a building that he said used to belong to Gadaffi--FREAK OUT!!! I was certain we were going to be sold into slave labor right then and there! Honestly, we were totally safe the whole time and Tunisia is reaching out to tourists because tourism helps fund their new country! We were treated very nicely and were warmly welcomed!
Slightly worried when we saw the port area

Our first stop was the Bardo Museum. It was filled with mosaics from 300 BC!! Can you believe that??
The blank spots are where they tried to move the mosaics and they broke.
They were found in the ruins of private residences and the museum people dug down below them (they were floors) and pulled them up to take to the museum

We kind of had to hurry though because the Palestinian president was on his way to visit it himself!
After driving through the city we headed towards the Medina, or old country. OMG was it beautiful! The Muslim/Arab influence was so different than anything else I had ever seen. Our guide was wonderful and explained how things worked before and after the revolution. I was particularly interested to hear how the women were treated and surprised that there are almost as many women professionals as there are men!

Evidence of the revolution

Amazing door in the Medina
There are 3 door knockers-one for men, women, and children

One of the many mosques

After the Medina we went into the Souk, or market. It was Sunday so many of the shops were closed, but our guide took us to one that was opened and had a roof top view. I wish it had been sunnier that day, but still, the view was lovely!!

Then we went back inside to have a presentation of the rugs. Tunisia is known for its hand woven rugs and when I heard that I was determined to get one! The store clerks were pulling out rugs right and left. They explained the process of making them, the different materials, etc. We were able to touch and feel and walk on them to help us pic out our favorites. The silk felt the best but I started to worry that the dogs and cats would mess it up. No need to worry! The sales clerk started quoting the prices of the rugs and I was WAAAAYYYYY off in my guestimation of cost! I was so surprised at the cost that I nearly flipped out when people actually started buying them!! Holy moly!
One of the ladies in our group purchased that round rug for like $6000!

Forrest and I decided we should go back into the souvenir part of the shop instead and I picked out some cute silver jewelry as gifts. The clerk told me that for 3 pieces of cheap jewelry it would be 355 euro! Um, NO!! We walked out of the shop and by the time we hit the door it was down to 5 euro! I was so upset and uncomfortable I didn't even care! Actually, when he hit 80 euro our guide stepped in and said it was a great price. Of course, I'm sure this was like his brother's shop so of course he thought that. I did NOT like that experience at all and even though I was sad to leave my jewelry behind, it totally wasn't worth the hassle.
We thought we were free from that experience but we were wrong. Lots of men were carrying around necklaces and other trinkets trying to get us to purchase them. I actually found one of the same necklaces I had seen inside and offered 5 dollars (not euro) and the guy took it. Hooray! I was feeling vindicated until another guy tried to get me to buy some toys. I said no and walked away and then he pinched me on my arm! I kept looking straight ahead and told Forrest and we decided that it was really not worth being on an episode of Lock Up Abroad just for a pinch so we laughed it off and out ourselves out of that market!!

Next we were on to Carthage!! Yes, like the one from history!! Super exciting, right? We started with a yummy lunch and then explored the aqueducts.
Tunisian lunch


Then it was back on the bus, passed the amphitheater and American cemetery from World War 2 to the Roman bath ruins. The ruins were the site of what was kind of like a huge gym. They had places to work out, steam, cool down, use the bathroom (ewww), and have meetings. It was so big, even in its ruinous state. I can't imagine what it looked like in all of its splendor!!
Diagram of what it used to look like

At the baths at Carthage

The column shows how tall it really was

Outside of the ruins were some little shops and I was THRILLED to find another of the necklaces I had wanted in the other store! We also found a necklace for Forrest's mom!
We had a quick snack in Carthage and found this Arabic coke!

Posing with Hannibal

Last but not least we were on to Sid Bou Said, the city in blue and white. It was so beautiful and I would definitely recommend going there if you ever stop in Tunisia. I loved all of the blue embellishments AND the fact that I found the elephant bracelet I was wanting earlier in the day for 5 euro! Hooray! Forrest also had a tasty doughnut type treat, solidifying the fact that fried dough and sugar is a treat loved in any area!!

We saw the largest mosque on the way back to the ship. It was built by Ben Ali, the over thrown President. They scratched his name out after the revolution!

Once we got back on the ship we hung out at the hot tub before having a nice dinner. Then we rented As Good As It Gets from the ship and watched until we fell asleep! We were really exhausted and glad that the next day was a relaxing day at sea!!
In the Crow's Nest (bar at the top of the ship), watching as we passed Tunisia by

The day at sea was the perfect way to recharge our batteries. We spent the morning at the pool, had a 4 course lunch, I went to the High Dutch Tea (where no one talked to me but the food was great), and then spent the rest of the day at the pool sipping mango mojitos before going to Tamarind, the Asian restaurant for dinner. I enjoyed this dinner all except the dessert, which tasted like spicy chocolate mousse. We even caught the tail end of the show, the Skinny German Juggle Boy, who was so funny!! We placed a room service order for breakfast and hit the hay early. We had to be up bright and early for Barcelona!!
My plate of tasty tea treats

Enjoying the pool on the back deck

Tamarind (that is the dessert I didn't like)

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