Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Final Thoughts from Tunis

I took a "louage," sort of a shared mini-van, from Mahdia to Tunis yesterday. As I was getting out of the van, a girl in the front seat slammed the door onto my finger. She asked if it was OK, and I said NO! But there wasn't much I could do. It isn't crushed or swollen, but it seems a little bent now... Oh well, the rigors of travel.
Then when I got to Tunis, I tried using my credit card and it was declined, so I called the bank... and they had canceled the card because it had been "compromised." Evidently, someone got the credit card numbers from some place I had used it, and all credit card numbers had to be cancelled. They're supposed to FedEx me a new card to Cairo... and I'll remain hopeful. Of course I have other cards to use, but this was the main one.
It's Ramadan now, for a MONTH, where the Muslims don't eat or drink while the sun is up. Tunis is quite different during this time. Most shops close by early evening, as everyone prepares to eat as soon as the sun goes down. During the day, all of the many sidewalk coffee shops are closed now for Ramadan, which means all those men who sit out there for hours seem to have nothing to do except look forlorn -- for a month?! Some of the restaurants serve a prix fixe meal at dinner after sunset, like a buffet, where all the food is ready to eat as soon as you get "the word" from the loudspeakers at the mosque. They all pile on the food and go for it, as they haven't eaten all day. They said that Ramadan is no problem for tourists, but it sort of is because all the restaurants are closed. I can get water and snacks at the little kiosks, but that's about it. One person finally asked me: "Why (you) here during Ramadan?" Hmmm...
I do try and remain sensitive to Ramadan. The other day, I bought a small candy bar (called a Monopole, sort of like KitKat), and I just opened it up and ate it at the bus station I was in. But then I realized that people were looking at me... because it's really not polite during Ramadan to eat in front of others if you're a tourist or a non-Muslim. It's not the end of the world, but I do try and be conscious of such things, like any good traveler.
But, in general, the Tunisians are very nice. As I was calling back to the States to speak with my bank, the phone center closed and they pulled down the gates even tho I was in there alone. But they said no problem, and when I got out they asked if I wanted to eat with them. It was a very kind gesture.
BTW, they pronouse mosque as "mos-kay," at least in English.
And I was thinking the other day: I have not seen one single dog the whole time I've been in Tunisia. Not sure what's up with that, but if I find out I will tell ya.
I've been able to see some of the RNC stuff on Al Jazeera television. It was interesting that Bush would only send his endorsement via video, not in person. However, no one here speculated as to why? Maybe because he wasn't wanted? And there's fighting in Thailand, and floods in India... and three more hurricanes after Gustav. SOunds like a job for.... FEMA!
I'm off to confirm my onward ticket, and exchange some money for Egyptian pounds. Wish me luck cuz I need to be gone by 5 a.m. tomorrow to get to the airport in time. No problem, the calls from the mos-kay will wake me up!