New Years and Tabarka

I have just returned home from another memorable weekend in Bizerte. I arrived Friday evening and immediately began helping the family prepare our New Years dinner. We had roast chicken with stuffing, frites, a green salad and cheesecake for dessert. (I’m embarrassed to admit that Halima was the one teaching me how to make American cheesecake!) Tired from a full day spent on trains, taxis and luages, I stayed up just long enough to wish everyone a Bon Anée… my New Years was sweet and simple.

We woke up early the next morning and I was back in the kitchen, but this time preparing a picnic for our family trip to Tabarka. The three-hour drive to get there was stunning… we passed large lakes flecked with strips of sunlight, rolling green hills, tree-covered mountains, and occasional glimpses of the coast. We also passed some rural villages with women carrying large bundles of sticks on their backs and shepherds looking after their flocks. I love that in Tunisia I can spend one weekend in a desert palmerie and the next driving through the lovely Kroumerie mountains!

Pulling into Tabarka, the first thing to catch your eye is the enormous Genoese castle sitting on a hilltop across the waterfront. I did some research and it turns out that Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, was exiled here during French colonial rule in the 1950s. Further along the coast is a group of  pointed rocks called the Aiguilles jutting up from the sea.

After a few hours of walking along the coast we had a nice picnic in the park with small quiches and pasta salad we had prepared in the morning (I think I could write a book on Tunisian picnicking!) and then it was time for some shopping. One thing I have discovered is that it is advantageous to shop with a Tunisian to avoid “tourist prices” and Halima is very strategic in befriending vendors so that they give us a special discount! I walked away with a backpack full of (cheap!) souvenirs.

We arrived back to Bizerte very late and we slept in until noon the next day. After a late breakfast, I went with Halima and Sammar to the hammam (public bath). It was similar to my experience at a Turkish hamam. The general procedure is to sit in a steam room to let your pores open, then allow a complete stranger to scrub away six layers of dead skin using an exfoliating glove, then wash your hair and body with buckets of hot water, and finally dry off with a bottle of gazeuse. All of this, of course, is done in front of a room full of naked women and children.

Experiences such as these remind me of just how far I am away from home and American comforts. I am excited to see what Tunisia has in store for me in 2011. I’m already off to a good start..

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2 Responses to New Years and Tabarka

  1. Mike Overton says:

    Unbelievable pictures, Brittany!

  2. Bev Mullett says:

    I loved this post…so want to be there! I am so grateful to Halima’s family…they are my angel’s taking care of you…..I loved all your pictures of the country side. Take notes and when you get back home we’ll have one of those Tunisian picnics you talk about.

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