- "Hmm I've been to Lebanon so many times Jacko, choose anywhere else in the world and I'll meet you there"
- "Shit. That's a big place... Tunis?"
- "Well, all I know is that our Libya mission is based there but I've heard it's cool for travelings."
- "Tunis? Yeah, fuck yeah. Let's do it."
- "Hey sister-girl, booked me flights. I land in Carthage on 15/10 at 10:30"
- "Sikh. I'll see you at the aéroporto, I'm landing at 10:35"
...and that is how we ended up meeting for a second time in a randomly selected international airport; the first being in Beirut almost exactly five years earlier, to the day.
We found a small group of seaside houses somewhere along the north coast. All were either empty or had never been completely built. We found the sole inhabitant of the village, Ibrahim, who agreed to let us stay for a while.
Although we arrived unannounced and without any food, water or plans (or common sense, apparently), he called us his brothers. He shared with us some of his onions, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, oil, spices and coffee. We rationed our supplies.
We spent days reading our books, doing yoga, and exploring the coast. We listened to the water, the wind and to each other. We watched the sun rise and set, the waves roll in and the clouds pass over.
From your tiled walls to your trilingual sentences, thank you Tunisia, you are excellent.
In the absence of any pre-conceived ideas, we travelled with wide eyes, open minds and unassuming hearts; drunk on the scents of sea salt, desert sand and adventure.
We stayed in grand old hotels, now almost-empty; legacies of both the French history and the once-thriving tourism economy.
Ça va? Alhamdulillah..
We spoke a confused mix of Arabic, French and English and ate a confused mix of croissants et cafés for breakfast, mechouia and tagines for nearly every other meal.
We bought a map and eeny meeny miny mo-ed a few points that either looked interesting or had, in our opinion, good sounding names.
Our map, published some time in the 1980s, featured a long list of car rental companies. I spent an hour using a taxi-phone (AKA pay-phone) to call through the options, almost all of which were either disconnected or had been transferred to residential houses.
We strolled the streets of Tunis for a while, finally coming across une agence de location de voiture and we were on course.
We explored the ruins of cities 3000 years old, and wound through narrow streets of the old souqs.
We wandered ancient mosques, and ate dinner on top of a seaside fortress.
We marvelled at endless fields of prickly pears; woke to the ocean breathing softly out our windows and filled our lungs with the Mediterranean sea.