A Day in Tunis

I was to meet Wafa at the Monoprix Menzah 6 (6 in French, seese), she instructed me to take a cab.  I wove my way out of the streets of the medina and out to the main street by the government buildings and the Kasbah.  It was sweltering and all of the makeup I had put on (I had only put it on for its SPF qualities) had been sweat off.  I could not flag a cab and I can’t standing still so I kept walking up the street, thinking I would increase my likelihood of finding a taxi…no.

I stopped a man and asked him where the best place was to take a taxi and he pointed me in the direction I was walking and asked me where I was going, I told him Monoprix Menzah seese in my best French accent.  He said “we’ll drive you to a place where you can find a cab.”

“OK, thank you so much,” and thought in my head I can’t tell mom & dad about this, as I climbed in the back seat of the two door car.

The two men introduced themselves to me and asked for my name, I told them and they asked where I was from, my Arabic is clearly not Tunisian.  I told them I was chamiya (a woman from Damascus) and my friend, Abu-Hasan, told me a saying they have in Tunisian that translates to “he who marries a chamiya, dies without worry.”  As if I didn’t already have enough Damascene pride!!  His friend, who was driving, chimed in, in formal Arabic (as proverbs are recited) “And he who makes you his friend, dies an idiot.”  We laughed and Abu-Hasan pulled out a packet of thin, light cigarettes, offering me one first.  Then he offered me a cold bottle of water from the same messenger bag.  And then a thermos of coffee.  I declined but asked if he had ice cream in there, because I would like that.  They delivered me faithfully to Monoprix Menzah seese and we went our separate ways.

I was early so I stepped in the Monoprix (a supermarket) to have a look around, despite looking like a Western supermarket with isles and boxed items piled high on the shelves, a refrigerated section, etc. it was still fawda (chaotic) with water on the floor (why not clean while the customers are shopping?), and little respect for a single file, take your turn line.

Please do not take my observations as criticism.  They are mere critical observations and I do this EVERYWHERE.  I am a social critic, not a hater.  

I bought Wafa and myself a bottle of water each and headed out to our pre-determined meeting spot. We found one another and went to do her bridal dress fitting.  After that chore was done, we were to have lunch at her mom’s friend’s house, so we called her to tell her that we were done and on our way.  She said, “OK, great we will go for a little swim first.”

Huh.  I thought, I didn’t bring a bathing suit.  Well, go along for the ride.

We bought flowers from a street-side florist and tried to hail a cab, again to no avail but now the temperature was 48˚C (118˚F) which is hot if you’re wondering.  We called the “aunt” again and told her our predicament and she sent her niece to fetch us.

The house was big, it was a bonafide house with a yard, not a flat.  We went up the outside stairs and as we turned the corner in to the backyard, found about 8 women, our mothers’ ages, swimming in the pool, talking, laughing, and splashing one another.  “Welcome to our pool party!!” Wafa’s aunt yelled.

“Come come, get in the water,”  She told us.

“We don’t have bathing suits.”

She called for her niece to loan us bathing suits.  After several minutes of back and forth, no it’s ok, really we can just sit and enjoy.  No, no you must.  Wafa said “ok, come with me Sally,” and we went and changed into the loaned bathing suits.

I must say, the water felt very nice.  We swam and played in the water until it was time for lunch, at which point we sat outside and ate a lovely meal of fish, chicken, meat, rice, salad, french fries.  After lunch we enjoyed tea and fruit and sweets and some ladies got back in the pool.

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