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Re: Weekend in Sousse, Tunisia


From: Judy Nagel (jdnag_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Oct 09 2002 - 18:29:43 PDT

Melissa, You really ought to write a book on all of your travels! Your
descriptions are wonderful....keep 'em coming.

Judy Nagel
Sax Arts & Crafts
----- Original Message -----
From: "Melissa Enderle" <>
To: "ArtsEdNet Talk" <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 3:42 PM
Subject: Weekend in Sousse, Tunisia

> Within a short period of less than 2 hours, we had already traveled a
> sizeable way south to our destination of Sousse. Located along the
> Mediterranean, Sousse is a popular tourist destination who enjoy the
> and shopping. The third largest city in Tunisia, Sousse is an important
> producer of olive oil, various industries, fishing, and a commercial
> We stayed at a 5-star hotel called the Orient Palace for 30 TD a night
> including breakfast and supper (ordinarily a package worth about 4 times
> much), compliments of the owners who have a child at our school. Nice side
> benefit, heh?
> Once in Sousse, it was immediately apparent that we were in a place
> catering to tourists. Numerous large hotels with pools and other amenities
> lined the roads and beaches. Signs were often posted in multiple languages
> including German, French, Arabic and English. Discos, restaurants with
> Western menus, a casino, and souvenir stalls were not difficult to spot.
> Armed with a camera, money and a comfortable backpack, I began my
> journey inside the medina. Shortly after walking through the arched
> I noticed that part of the large wall (supposedly built around 859 AD)
> surrounding the old city was gone, destroyed in WWII. As in the medina of
> Tunis, vendors sat outside their tiny shops, hoping to lure potential
> buyers. Quickly deciding what country you must be from, vendors welcomed
> in that language. Souvenirs and goods were plentiful: plush or stiff
> camels, tacky camel T-shirts, plenty of patterned ceramic dishes, silver
> jewelry, shishas (water pipes for smoking tobacco), leather goods and rugs
> were some items readily available. If you paused or glanced at the goods
> front, the owner would extend an invitation to come and look in the shop -
> just to look. Of course, good prices were promised. You had to be savvy
> patient, bargaining until a fair price was reached.
> Through the labyrinth of stone-paved streets, locals were seen doing
> their shopping as well. Meat stalls displayed fresh cuts - sometimes
> dangling the whole head of the animal in the store window. The rich scents
> of spices in large sacs filled nearby areas. The bright colors of cheap
> plastic containers and the tempting array of cold drinks or local desserts
> were difficult to miss. Young children carried fresh produce or baguettes
> large woven baskets, walking in sync with the basket in between them.
> men strategically maneuvered clumsy carts through the crowds. An
> motorbike zoomed by.
> After a time we stopped at a narrow shop selling rugs. Piled high
> the perimeter of the narrow room, the empty middle space was only wide
> enough for one person. More inexpensive hand-woven knotted and woven rugs
> a variety of colors and patterns were available. It wasn't until the piece
> was fully unfolded that the beauty was revealed. Having spent a little
> already, the owner offered us sweet mint tea and water. Bargaining
> and purchases in hand, we proceeded to the nearby silver shop. Some
> were especially interested in the older Berber jewelry pieces.
> After enjoying a freshly-made pizza, the rest of the group decided to
> back to the hotel and I went back into the medina. I had much more to
> explore! With my new carte de sejour in hand stating that I am a teacher
> Tunisia, I could now get into museums and sites for free. The
> ribat was my first destination. Built in the 8th century, the Islamic
> monastery definitely felt like a fortress or castle. There were the watch
> towers, slits in the walls to shoot arrows through, and the openings in
> floor above the entrance from which hot oil or other items could be poured
> over those who managed to get through the large door. Like many other
> buildings, the ribat also reused Roman columns in its structure. After
> walking up the narrow spiral staircase to the watchtower lookout, I was
> to enjoy the magnificent view over the medina, harbor and the sea. I got
> aerial view of the nearby Grand mosque courtyard, as well as another view
> the impressive arcaded porticos of the ribat courtyard.
> After a little shopping and sightseeing, I meandered in the direction
> the National Museum, hoping to fit a visit in before evening. Rather than
> taking the more touristy or commercial route, I wanted to take a tour
> through a more residential area. Unfortunately, the twisting street took
> in a diverted direction. I saw a woman standing in the doorway wearing
> her bra on top. Thinking that odd but not quite making the connection, I
> continued on that way. After seeing a few more scantily dressed women and
> one with nothing on top, I knew I had wandered into the medina's red-light
> district. Unfortunately the route was a dead end - so I had to walk back
> through the whole thing! Almost dusk, people were walking home, carrying
> fresh baguettes. When I arrived at the museum, I discovered I was too
> I would have to come again.
> The next day I quickly walked through the narrow streets to reach the
> museum in time to view its renowned collection before we had to return to
> Tunis. Occupying the former Kasbah at the top of the medina, the Sousse
> museum's superb mosaic collection awaited me. Walking through the inner
> garden, I noticed a young man diligently working on a mosaic. The mosaic
> figure, approximately 2 feet in dimensions, composed of small pieces of
> natural colored stones, had taken the man 2 months so far. Just imagine
> long the huge murals covering entire floors must have taken the Roman
> artisans! In addition to the extensive mural collection, the museum also
> Roman statues, funeral furnishings discovered in Carthaginian and Roman
> burial grounds, and miscellaneous artifacts from the Romans, Punic and
> Byzantine Christians. Knowing that some of these artifacts such as Roman
> lamps could be found in the fields around my house in Tunis, I was eager
> do a little exploring when I got back to Tunis.
> Upon returning to the hotel after the medina trip, I took a quick walk
> to the beach. Whereas the hotel courtyard and nearby beach was virtually
> empty in the early morning, the place was now filled with tourists,
> themselves and enjoying the beach and water.
> Heading back to Tunis, the large modern hotels gradually were replaced
> by large fields of olive groves and the occasional vineyard. Small homes
> fields with tractors dotted the land. Hills green with trees provided a
> colorful release from the hues seen in the resort town. After passing
> through a few toll booths on the modern road, we were once again back in
> Tunis. Until another weekend.....
> ---