There are hundreds of reasons why I love Tunis. For one, it is a city where one of the nicest couples I know, lives. They are Munnie and David, friends of my husband and they are kind, welcoming expats who now call Tunisia their home. I was their guest and Munnie showed me around her new home city. She was like an excited child who squealed with happiness every time she discovered something beautiful and she can spot beauty anywhere. We spent some wonderful days exploring Tunis and it was a fun combination of being half expats and half tourists. Munnie knew the local places to shop, eat, and watch sunsets and she visited the Old City ‘must see’ spots with me. Overall, we had a wonderful time and even though the entry procedure at Tunis international airport was something out of a masochistic patriarchal bad movie, I loved my stay.
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A pretty Mediterranean capital city
Another reason why I adore Tunisia is its incredible beauty. Africa’s northernmost country maybe just a slim wedge of landmass, but it has enough diverse natural beauty to cram in a country twice its size. The sky over Tunis is china blue and often cloudless, the Mediterranean is well..turquoise and melts into a blue horizon. The dunes are golden, and an insane amount of Arabian jasmine plants grow there. Sour oranges also grow in abundance there, at least on the coast, and the air of Tunisia’s capital city smells of these sweet fragrances. Then there is the cultural heritage of Tunisia that goes back thousands of years.
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A cultural melting pot
From the crowning Roman ruins, Arabic Andalus influences, Ottoman heritage, and a great Berber culture, Tunisia has a lot to offer to culture lovers. Shopping is great too and similar to what you may find in Morrocco. Only the prices are less than half that in Maghreb and Tunisia is relatively scam-free. I love their food too. It’s a curious mix of North African (read Moroccan), Egyptian, and Mediterranean cuisines rolled into one. Their couscous is fluffy and savoury, their tagines spicy, and their Molokhia denser. The Ojja (Shakshouka) of Tunisia has fewer tomatoes and their Brik, a fluffy deep-fried pastry reminds one of the Ottoman past. The cuisine of Tunisia naturally also has a lot of French influences. Poulet Meshi is one such dish and Tunisian wines share their names with French counterparts. Muscat is one such white wine that is found in both France and Tunisia.
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Gorgeous old buildings of Tunis
Last but not least important reason why I love Tunisia is because I love the Islamic – Ottoman – Andalusian – Berber – colonial heritage and architectural styles. I love the philosophy behind the designs of their monuments, their concepts, and the intricate details that decorate the buildings. I love their tile work, their trellis work, and their abundant use of the colours blue and yellow. Tunis is decorated with such buildings and some parts of the capital city of Tunisia resemble Calcutta, Cairo, Havana, Alexandria, and a Provencal small town.
Tunis reminds me of home
What am I talking about? I am talking about narrow streets split by tram lines, old lanes through which fingers of sun rays filter in, and grand old buildings in different stages of deterioration standing in silent rows. Folding chairs perch on slim balconies with blue wooden shuttered doors and signs in French advertise myriad services. These buildings are of the colonial era. They have seen better days of dancing, French Sahibs, and Memsahibs, and in whom now, large families live crowded in small rooms. Drying laundry flutter from their iron trellis balconies, and pigeons coo from broken old chandeliers. Lively local markets are held outside their once-grand facades and small garages work busily inside their inner courtyards. Spare parts lie stacked where once horse carriages must have waited and banyan trees claim their outer walls. This is the human side of Tunisia’s capital city. It reminded me of Calcutta and how can I not love a place that reminds me of home? Culture, nature, heritage, food…do I need more reasons to love Tunis?
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