Tunisia. What a fascinating country it is.
I only scratched the surface having spent a mere two nights in Tunis, the capital back in November 2012. There’s a quiet confidence that underlies the population of the city and, although I say it as someone who doesn’t speak Arabic and therefore can’t detect any dissent or negative feelings, there seems to be a certain optimism too. And certainly from the people I spoke with during my stay. And dare I say it, but there’s still a revolution going on. People are expressing themselves in a number of different ways.
I’ll state some examples to illustrate. The young lady at the bar I happened to visit; sitting alone but confident in herself, drinking a glass of lager.
The two young guys walking arm in arm. I don’t know, and I couldn’t tell, but I was told by, Issam, a friend I met, that they were gay. And remember, this is still a fairly conservative country.
And then there’s Hammed, the taxi driver that took me to the airport this evening. He was delighted to put on a music video on his dashboard video player and play the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Michael Jackson and ‘dance’ with his hands (yes I know, luckily the traffic was slow-moving as it would have been very nerve-wracking). A fairly surreal experience but strangely enjoyable nonetheless.
Ben Ali, the former dictator, has gone after 23 years of iron rule. The people are expressing themselves in ways that would never have previously been allowed.
Locals are not allowed to drink alcohol outside. Tourists will be served but it is an offence to serve residents. Again, one of those quirks. It may or may not change. There are pressures from some conservative parts to curtail certain gained freedoms. I was shown some posters on tram stop shelters extolling the virtues of a certain type of conservatism.
There is, in any case, freedom of debate in parliament. And I have left Tunis after this briefest of visits with a positive feeling and a genuine feeling of being made welcome by the many people I met – whether they were in the bars, my hotel (Ibis, which I can definitely recommend), metro ticket office staff, taxi drivers, or residents. And I also have optimism for their future.
Today, my first full day in Tunis has been a mixed bag of weather. Started dry, then it poured with rain, very heavy at times, thunder and lightening eventually clearing with some blue skies.
I hadn’t brought any wet weather gear with me. I had packed two coats as it was cold leaving the UK and it was going to be cold on my return.
The morning was spent catching up on emails and some reading hoping that the weather would clear up enough that I could get out and do a bit more research.
As it happened the clouds blew away and I could risk getting out without getting drowned. As you’ll see in the accompanying photos and videos, parts of the city of Tunis have themselves become drowned
Now I head off towards the Marine station. I want to check out the tram and railway stations and see how close they are to each other. As there is some blue sky around I vote to walk along the main road, i.e. without shelter to get there quicker. Making good progress and I come across the tram line which I know terminates at the Marine station. The floodwaters had subsided by this morning, but at the cross junction where the tramlines cut across the main road there is a flooded section
That’s a good spirit. Keeping the job running even when it’s not ideal conditions. Obviously, safety comes first and if those conditions are met, and the job can keep going, then public service is a virtue.
Turning left and heading along the footpath towards the Marine station it soon becomes clear that walking along the footpath I’m going to get wet feet. I get so far doing that only to find there’s more flooding. Now all that’s left to do is pick my way along the parts of the footpath that are above the waterline.
Having managed that without getting my feet wet and turning the corner, I can see the tram station. Looks like it lives up to its name having been partially flooded!
There’s another tram all set for departure so I’ll make a video record of that. It looks really deep and I’m surprised they’re running a service. Even the low voltage that it is, the water can still play havoc with the motors and other electrics.
Having made the video of the tram I make my way along the platform to see where the other line of interest is located.
The TGM line goes to Marsa Plage and cuts a path right through the middle of Lake of Tunis. There isn’t time on this trip to discover the delights of that or the train’s destination. That’s for another time. Back into the city now to complete this initial research…
Men at work
Continuing with the expedition I come across this rather attractive building.
Further along, I spot a tram stop. No name attached to this one. This is a classic example of one of the failings of so many systems I have come across. Knowing where to get on or off is an essential part of navigating. We will see later, that there is a route diagram inside the tram carriages with each of the stops named!
These two lovely ladies wanted their photo taken with me.. what can I say? Naturally, I obliged being the friendly chap I am.
One of the main interchange stations is La Republique shown below in these photos.
With the camera at the ready, we sometimes come across the strangest things. This little fella was wondering around the streets of Tunis looking a little bit sorry for itself. Now I’m no pigeon expert, far from it in fact, so this one appeared to me to be a little bit wanting in the ‘feather department’ with its little knees-a-knocking.