Last summer, I went with a group of friends to Tunisia. Tunisia! What an exotic far off land. As a Westerner, wouldn’t you imagine only the most adventurous kind of traveler looking for a new and off-the-beaten-path experience would go there?
That’s what I thought too. But you’ve gotta see what I found in my latest video.
The main purpose of my trip was for my friend’s very traditional wedding that lasted 5 days. A good portion of my time was spent on the party-wagon with many of the other guests who flew in for the wedding. That meant lots of lounging and lazing on the beach during the day before the evening festivities. And that’s how I discovered that Tunisia is a popular getaway destination for Europeans looking for inexpensive holidays – even if, or rather, especially if they simply want beach, sun and a resort.
But, of course, even as this scene can resemble rather touristy destinations like Cancun there is a distinct North African vibe that colors the experience. The food is out of this world. I can still taste that delicious chicken coucous with carrots, potatoes and chickpeas I had on my first day there. Oh and the salata mechuia! That’s a roasted pepper spread eaten, seemingly, at every meal with bread and spicy harissa sauce.
Outside resort life, of course, there is so much to do and explore – from shopping in the medinas, visiting mosques and ancient Roman ruins, exploring the winding streets of neighboring towns to smoking tobacco water pipes, known as shisha, of many fruity flavors.
I had a really wonderful time there. But, honestly, it is hard for me to give a caveat-free recommendation to travel there. That is for a few reasons. One, I speak French and I was there with a bunch of people very familiar with the culture and whose family we visited. So, I don’t know what it would be like to visit without those advantages.
Further, the country is undergoing a period of transformation. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Tunisian politics. But I will say, when I was there I encountered an undercurrent of concern that a more extremist regime could rise in power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring – changing the way of life in the country as they know it today.
When people say to me, weren’t you scared? I say, well, I found myself immersed in a culture, with whom I immediately felt a kinship. I encountered many people to be lighthearted, smiling and ready with a joke. And if I had to identify one characteristic that I observed over and over, it would be that life in Tunisia has a strong emphasis on family values and togetherness.
More about all that in a later post.