Spending the holidays abroad requires some imagination and improvisation. Instead of spending Christmas Eve opening presents in a log cabin I crashed a wedding – a separate wedding with a bride but no bridegroom. I spent Christmas day horseback riding and had a very modest Christmas dinner (pizza) with friends from around the world – Poland, Canada, Indonesia, Columbia and Tunisia.
I returned home from the party sometime around two in the morning and set my alarm for 4:30 am because I had a bus for Tozeur to catch at 5 am. In true Brittany fashion I miss-set my alarm, it never went off, and I was awoken by the nanny at 5:20 am. I was out the door in two minutes without makeup, without brushing my teeth, without deodorant and wearing an outfit put together in a mad dash in the dark. I found an empty seat on the bus and fell back asleep. I woke up two hours later with a terrible headache (had one too many glasses of wine at the Christmas party) and found myself on a tour bus with about 30 Tunisian mothers… my own Tunisian mother had invited me on this excursion and aside from me everyone was aged over 50 or under 10. But as I’ve said before, traveling with Tunisian mothers has its many advantages, and this trip was no exception – once they saw that I was awake, warm coffee and various sweets were passed my way. Outside my window were low-lying mountains and miles and miles of olive grove, and inside the bus the women were clapping and singing as if we were on our way to summer camp.
It took us 5 hours to reach Tozeur – a serene and charming oasis town in the South. First stop was Chak Wak Museum, which attempts to educate its visitors on basically the history of the world. We shuffled through exhibits on dinosaurs, cavemen, religion, Egyptian pharaohs, and Hannibal. Lonely Planet describes it as “incongruous and trippy” which is actually very accurate. My favorite part was the life-size replica of Noah’s Ark and walking through the parting of the Red Sea.
The next stop was a park dedicated to the Tozeur-born poet, Echebbi, where we picnicked with food brought from home. It was a first class meal completed by warm mint tea and fruit and nuts for desert.
After lunch we did some shopping and hired a horse-drawn carriage to drive us through the expansive palmerie. I took a seat next to our driver, Ahmed, and was handed over the reins.
We were back on our way to Sfax just as it started to get dark, with more singing and dancing during our five hour return trip. It was a whirlwind of a day and I was grateful for having spent it with some truly wonderful women. I feel that I’ve been given a small taste of Tozeur, but definitely need more time to appreciate all that it has to offer. I’d like to devote an entire day to wandering aimlessly in the oasis, and I promised Ahmed I’d return soon and call him for another driving lesson.
Wishing all of you an expired Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years!