April 15th - On Our Way
and a 7 Hour Layover in Rome
Return to Tunisia April 15 – May 19, 2019
On April 15th
we started our journey back to Tunisia where Tsamaya has been this winter. We left our house at 8:30AM to give ourselves time to stop in for a few minutes to see Mom again, then over to my sister as she was taking us to the Albany airport. Our flight left a little late but it wasn’t a problem as we were to have 4 3/4 hours of layover in Philadelphia. From there we caught a flight taking us directly to Rome. Again this flight was a little late leaving but they made up time and again it definitely wasn’t a problem for us as we were going to have to wait almost 7 hours there. Our biggest problem with such a long layover was that our luggage could not be checked all the way through to our final destination. We now have learned that if the layover is more than 5 hours we have to pick up the baggage and take it out of the terminal to another terminal, check back in through security and have our passports stamped. When we got on board in Albany they
Rush Hour Traffic Looks Similar Wherever You Are
this is actually lighter than it had been out of Tunis
checked our hand luggage and the alternator for the boat definitely raised alarms, but fortunately they were careful about the unpacking, checking it out and then actually rewrapping the alternator. They were very kind in letting Bob repack the bag as he said he could tell it was so carefully packed away. Definitely a positive for the TSA folks in Albany. Nothing seemed to raise a red flag in Rome, but we did find that our carry on luggage was too heavy (due to the alternator) so we had to pay to have it put on as a checked bag. We never had had our hand luggage actually weighed before so this is the first time for this to happen. Guess we will have to be more careful in the future on this as well. It was Alitalia – we have never flown them before so will need to be sure to read the fine print when using a different carrier. I actually saw a mention of it, but had never had hand luggage weighed. Oh well…at least all the bags got to Tunis airport and they came off the baggage carousel quickly.
The flight to Tunis went smoothly
and fortunately due to our contact with a friend we had made last fall while in Monastir, we had a taxi driver lined up to pick us up. This was the first time we ever came off a plane and had someone holding up a sign with our names on it – almost felt like we were important for a minute! Sure was nice as we then had to travel by taxi to Monastir which took about 2 1/2 hours. Many flights arrive in Tunis in the middle of the night but I worked hard to get one that would get us back to the boat in daylight which worked out nicely on that count, but I didn’t take into consideration that it was also the time of rush hour travel in the capital city of Tunis which slowed things down some. With the crowded roads we were very glad we were not driving ourselves especially with how tired we were after a two day journey.
It sure was nice to get back on board Tsamaya and we definitely slept that first night. The next morning we were able to start evaluating what needed to be fixed as we
Love the Lighting at Dusk
when walking through Monastir
were already aware that there had been some damage to some of our canvas. We know that many people take all of their canvas down when they leave for the winter, but we had a sun shade that we decided to put on to protect the teak that we had worked on. Due to some winter storms we sustained some tears in the canvas, but it was definitely something that could be repaired. Many times we do our own canvas repair, but once we looked at all that needed to be done and found out what the cost would be to have someone else do the repair, we made the decision to hire the work out. That way it would free us up to do other jobs that need to be done before starting the sailing season. The more major problem was damage to our bimini – we have been very lucky every other year to not have any damage to our canvas, but we now have learned that it is more important to take the canvas off than to protect the teak. The one thing that did contribute to the damage though was the fact that the canvas was
10 years old so it was getting weak in spots anyway from the sun. Again with the price of canvas work in Tunisia we decided to splurge and have a new bimini and dodger made. From the work we saw from this shop last fall, we were pleased and decided it was worth doing. The down side right now has been how long it has taken to get the work done. We have found that other boats seemed to take more of a priority at times with many transient boats coming and going and our job had gone down on the list of projects to work on. The promise had been to have all the work done no later than May 8th
but by May 11th
it still was not done. In looking at the weather we had planned on leaving on May 10th
but by the 9th
we knew they would never be done. The dilemma then was to continue to tell them we were leaving OR tell them our plans changed and give them some extra time. We want the work done well so figure it was better to wait a few extra days. Only problem then is
when do we tell them we are leaving? The real date or a little bit earlier. We have learned over the years that you never give the actual date, always give a little bit of a cushion. Our real plans now are to leave on Tuesday, May 14th
but told them the morning of Monday. This would allow for any last minute corrections that may be needed. The pressure was on and we had one of the guys actually on our boat working at 6:45AM. They are doing a nice job, but as with all big projects there are always a few “corrections” that need to be made. It is complex as they are making a new bimini and dodger but have to make sure that all of our side curtains and the connector work with it so matching zippers and snaps are critical. They kept trying to make improvements to our old design and in many ways they have, but with some of the modifications they have created more work as corrections have to be made in order for our screens to fit correctly. As we say, it will come together – just give it a little time… We
had definitely hoped to have been on our way by now but this is definitely holding us up now and we really did have a wonderful two day weather window for our approximately 31 hour trip to Malta – the first of the season. The other job they have to complete is re-covering our cockpit cushions. We have seen that some work has been done on them and the promise is that we will see them on Monday morning. We have to make the best of it which we have already – another weekend for the market, and more time to work on teak and stainless.
We knew of another couple last fall that had some stainless steel work done so we decided we would have a stainless steel ladder fabricated for our stern. Since buying the boat we have never had one and had been using a side mounted ladder, but it definitely isn’t the handiest to use. We were given a price that we felt was reasonable so made arrangements to have that made as well. They did an excellent job and got the work done by the date they promised with no extra charge. It turned
Friday & Saturday are the big Market Days Here
lots of produce, clothes and crowds - what fun!
out very well and we would definitely recommend them to others if anyone needed their services.
One thing that is great about coming back to a place you have been before is that you know all of the basics so you can easily head to the grocery store, know the days that the open markets are held, know some of the marina staff (there had been some changes over the winter) and best of all know our boat neighbors on either side! It was great to catch up with Vicky, Per and Zara from Lucky Potato as fortunately for us they had returned to Monastir before us. We had stayed in touch over the winter months electronically, but always great to be able to socialize in person again as well as see how much Zara had grown since we last saw her in the fall. We were given lovely gifts – a beautiful bracelet made by Zara that goes with everything as it has all the colors of the rainbow. For the other gift we had to have a formal flag raising of Bob’s “BOB” flag! For those of you that don’t know it actually is a Danish flag
Just a few Of the Offerings at the Market
come here during strawberry season - how wonderful
for the equivalent of Baby on Board. As they said they had to get a BOB flag for Bob – very fitting indeed.
Unfortunately shortly after returning to Tunisia I started having some major problems with my computer as I couldn’t even sign on anymore. Bob says the only problem is that it isn’t a Mac, but that aside it is only 2 years old and I depend on it so off to the office staff at the marina to find out where there is a place that works on computers. They gave me the name and address of a couple of places. I called to check on the hours at “First Informatique” and when I was able to talk to someone in English, the decision was made. The first time I went I took a taxi and it cost less than $1 to get there. They took a look at it and asked me to leave it with them and pick it up the next day. They decided that the problem was with Windows and it needed to be re-installed. When I picked it up we checked and it was definitely better than it was and it appeared
to be OK. I paid my 25 dinar (a little more than $8) and I was off. After working on it back on the boat, I found that there were still problems so called them and went back the next day. They did some more adjustments over night meaning another walk but no extra charge. Well, I got to be a regular every day for about 4 or 5 times, each time with them keeping the computer overnight, making some adjustments and not charging any extra. Finally things seem to be working quite well, however, I do now have a few more things showing up in French such as the Welcome screen – guess it will give me a few more words of French in my vocabulary s as they keep showing up occasionally depending on what I am opening up. I was truly amazed at how much they kept trying to make the situation better and never charging any extra for their time. Sure am glad I have my computer back, however, it did mean having to re-install quite a bit of my software. There are a few that haven’t been re-installed as I need to download them and
with poor wi-fi here it is telling me it would take more than 10 hours to download. Fortunately nothing critical and in fact with one of my software packages that I use regularly on the blog to create the collages being too difficult to download I just found a new one that seems to work just as well and it wasn’t much of a learning curve to be up and running with it. Have to look for those silver linings! Having the problem with my computer also got a nice long walk in for me every day – a built in exercise program!
There were a few other liveaboards either in the marina or have their boat in the boatyard nearby. We found out that they had been having a Sunday barbeque each week where you bring what you want to grill and a dish to pass. A great way to meet others that are here and share ideas. One of the women belongs to a Facebook group that I am part of as well, Women Who Sail the Med. I had been in contact with Niki over the winter as she was good enough to keep us informed
of what was happening storm-wise in Monastir. It was great to meet up in person. The networks that are out here of cruisers is great with wonderful sharing of experiences. We had a chance to meet people from numerous areas – Australia, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Canada and the US. A nice event to look forward to each Sunday that we are here. We made it to 3 barbeques before we decided to stop them due to the start of Ramadan. Everyone decided it would not be good to be cooking outside and eating when others around us are not eating or drinking from sun up to sun down (actually it is from 3:20AM to 7:20PM). Here in Tunisia there are some that do not follow Ramadan, it is a personal choice, but as we were told by one person we spoke to, even if you do want to eat or drink you would typically not do it at a café in public to be considerate of others. We have found that there are a couple of cafes here at the marina that are open and those that have inside seating seem to be quite full. Guess anyone that wants to
Traditional and Modern Clothing
and plenty of leather goods are available here
eat and drink during the day can still find a place to do it. When I mention the word drink – that includes not even drinking water.
It has been interesting to learn more about the traditions around Ramadan. In talking to one of the marina office staff I mentioned that it must be difficult to not eat or drink anything for that long especially when it is hot out. She said it isn’t the lack of food, she finds being tired more difficult. She told me that as you can last eat early in the morning, it is difficult to then go back to sleep and then be up and at work by 8AM. Since then a few others also mentioned that is more about being tired than about being hungry. We spoke to a person today that stated that by fasting, it gives you a much better idea of what it would feel like to be poor and hungry all the time, even though Ramadan is only for 30 days. There are exceptions for those participating in Ramadan – those that are older, in poor health, younger children, those that are traveling, pregnant woman as well as
Some Traditional Offerings at a Restaurant,
a 20 cent piece of pastry & an interesting sign!
any that are menstruating. There are some very practical practices – as an example, if you need to travel for a few days and must eat during that time, you can then make up the time later. This means that if you travel for 4 days and eat during that time, you can add another 4 days of fasting on sometime during the year after Ramadan is over. This is the same for those that may be sick or menstruating. Definitely interesting to learn more about the religious practice. We also learned that the typical first food that you might eat when allowed at night would be dates and a glass of milk as it was said this is what Mohammed, the prophet, wrote in the Qur’an. There are some specialty foods that are typical at Ramadan – various sweets, breads and other dishes – nothing different than with other religions and their traditional foods. It seems the more you learn about others, the more you find in common.
We have been enjoying getting to the fresh produce markets here – it is near the end of the orange season, but you can still get some nice ones. It
is obvious by the offerings at the market what is in season – it appears lemons and garlic were definitely in season when we first got back, but now that we have been here almost a month there are many other items showing up. We have been enjoying great tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and the other day green beans seemed to make an appearance. You definitely plan your meals after you make it to the market to see what is fresh. We are also enjoying the wonderful mint for tea and salads. A typical Tunisian salad consist of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion with tunafish on top. This has definitely become a standard for us as well on Tsamaya made easy with the great produce we are now getting. We see lots of dates for sale at the market and by the looks of it you might think they are in season, but found out that the season for them is in the fall, but because of Ramadan there is a large demand for them now.
Even though we had been in Monastir before we needed to find a new laundry as the one we used last fall was no longer in
business. The office here at the marina gave us directions to one which we used. It worked out OK, but at the Sunday barbeque another cruiser told us of another laundry so tried that the second time it was needed. What an improvement – it was a little farther to walk to the Berlin Laundry, but it was much more organized, less expensive and as we said when we got it back, Bob’s boat work shorts have not been that clean in a long time – they even paired up the socks for us!
One day we were walking in the marina just getting back from town when a group of high school students started to walk by. Luckily for us one of the students started to talk to us in English. That started it off and within a few minutes I was surrounded by a group of girls and Bob with a group of boys. We stood there and talked for quite some time asking each other lots of questions. As with everyone we meet it seems selfies are very popular so once the photos were taken, names and FB pages exchanged we parted. Fortunately for us Latifa
(the girl that first spoke to us) and I kept in touch electronically. Eventually we thought it would be interesting to see if we could come to visit their school so after asking the headmaster (principal) permission we were allowed to come. What a great experience it was as we had a chance to tour the classrooms, meet the administrators and a couple of teachers as well as spend more time with Latifa and a couple of her friends. It wound up that we had to wait to actually see the classrooms after the students left for lunch so in the meantime we had a private tour by 3 lovely young ladies (Latifa, Nour and Hedil) seeing some of their town. We found that Latifa is very active in a variety of volunteer groups and we got a chance to see one street where many of the houses were in “bad” shape but the volunteers had spent time painting the homes on the whole street and even painted on some lovely murals for the people. What a great idea – she said that the people have really appreciated what they did and some of them were even able to help
some. It seems that the school also encourages volunteer work and many of the wonderful improvements in the school such as a lovely garden and murals on the outside and inside the classrooms were done by students. A great idea! When we left to come back to Monastir (the school was in a neighboring town) Latifa presented me with a wonderful gift of two necklaces – very generous indeed. I immediately put one on as it went perfectly with the blouse I was wearing and other one is blue and white so goes well with my color scheme!
We have gained so much from our new friends as they have been a great resource of information answering such basic questions as “is this milk?” when shopping in the store to finding a store that sells foam to insert into a cover we bought last fall to make a cushion for our backs and numerous other questions. The “is this milk” question may sound strange but sometimes there are pictures on containers that make something look like milk and without much writing on the container (and none in English) you just can’t be sure! I sort of thought there was
Our First Ramadan Dinner & Communications
helped by sign language & google translate!
something different about it from one word I did see and translate, but the picture made me question. Latifa answered my question and found it was fermented milk that they enjoy drinking in the morning. To get milk here you buy it in the unrefrigerated section in a box similar to what we used in Botswana. Mohammed was another one of the students we met and he actually came to the boat one day to visit. He came bearing many gifts – way too many to mention them all here but they are captured in a photo. A couple that I want to mention however is a liter of olive oil made from olives from his grandfather’s orchard and a bottle of rose water made by his mother. The food items including honey will disappear when used, but he also gave us many items that will remain on the boat or go back to our home in the US. We have already put up on the walls of Tsamaya a small replica of the traditional slipper and the two prayer beads that he gave us. Some of the items are breakable so will put some of them out when things
The Couscous Was Excellent
and we got plenty of left overs to eat too!
are calm, but many of them will return to the US as a reminder of Tunisia and our friend here. We were pleased that Mohammed had told us of two organizations that he is a part of that were collecting food for the poor as we were happy to help out. Thankfully he gave us a list of some of the types of food that would be best so Bob and I went to the shops and bought what we could to donate. The food was divided between the two organizations and were given to them for distribution. It is always nice to find out groups that we can help in some very small way.
One of the directors we met just outside the gate of our pier to hand him a couple of bags with the food. It happened to be close to the police station at the marina. Shortly after that one of the policemen spoke to Mohammed and stated we needed to go to the office. Come to find out we are suppose to fill out paperwork at the marina office to file with the police and the customs office when we have a visitor on
our secure pier. We of course complied and Mohammed had to leave his identity card with the police to pick up later. When we returned to the police station with the papers another officer was there and said not to worry about the paperwork, but did take the identity card for the period of time that Mohammed was visiting. It definitely shows that they are careful about security here which as Mohammed said is a good thing (but did make him a little nervous as he thankfully doesn’t normally have any interactions with the police). Mohammed then took me to the other organization – the Monastir Youth Centre and I had a chance to meet the Director and others there. I had a tour of the facility and found out that it provides many opportunities to everyone from the age of 14 on upwards. They encourage volunteering and have numerous programs including an exchange program with many countries. In fact Mohammed was one that had a chance to go to Germany last summer giving him an opportunity to meet students from many other countries. At the Centre there was another Mohammed (Mohame) that I met that went to Germany as
Latifa Showing Us a Wonderful Alleyway
that she and a volunteer group cleaned & painted
well so he actually spoke to me in German – just wish my HS German was a lot stronger as I could understand but wasn’t quite that quick with an answer in German!
I was definitely honored as the Director, Bechir Selmi, presented me with a gift – a beautiful painting on silk that I had admired when touring the facility. It was very generous and it now hangs proudly on the wall of our cabin of Tsamaya. The Centre houses space for dance and exercise classes, taekwondo, art and even has a radio station that the students work at. Both Mohammed’s enjoy working at the radio station which has also given them a career goal and great experience.
Another day Mohammed was in Monastir and we had a chance to connect again – he helped me find the right shop for getting foam filling for a cushion cover we had bought last fall. I never would have found it on my own as he was able to ask for a shop that could help me. He then walked around shopping with me and on our way back to the marina he introduced me to another organization, Notre
Grand Bleu . Dr. Manel Ben Ismail is the Director and she gave me a wonderful overview of their mission and activities. It was established in 2012 to help protect the coastline of Tunisia and educate people about the importance of the marine environment. They teach people to scuba and clean up the waters, they have a program where people actually paint underwater after learning to scuba (an interesting activity!), have clean up the beach days, work with the fishermen to teach about the importance of clean water and the problems with pollution and many other worthwhile activities. They receive funding from a number of sources from quite a few countries – I was happy to hear that the US Embassy has some projects that they work with as well as many others. She explained that there is also a sea turtle nesting area on a nearby island that they do research on and are proud to say that they have 46 nesting sites for the turtles, the largest on the North African coastline. It was interesting to hear about these great organizations and without Mohammed’s help we would have never learned of them. This second time that Mohammed came
he didn’t have his identity card with him so decided that it would be best for Bob to come out to meet him to say our final good byes. He gave us another gift, a large bag of two traditional sweets. His generosity has been enormous with his time and material gifts.
Unfortunately both times Bob had to stay on the boat as he was working on boat projects but more importantly was there due to the men working on the canvas. They would come to work at various times during the day and Bob would need to be there to answer questions and see if any modifications needed to be made. There have been quite a few but fortunately small ones like the location of snaps and zippers. The biggest change so far was that they decided to be nice and give us bigger windows in the dodger. It is great but our covers for the windows didn’t fit anymore. Thankfully they were able to just add some material to the edges of the covers to make them fit again. It is things like this that is taking some extra time. They are doing nice work so the
It Was Wonderful Visiting a Nearby School
notice the garden & artwork done by the students
only down side is that we haven’t been able to leave when we wanted. There was a wonderful weather window for leaving but we missed it. Instead last night we were treated to some wild winds even in the marina. We definitely were reminded we were on a sailboat as were heeling at the dock! It promises to be another windy day today so won’t be moving today either. The cockpit cushions were to be delivered finished on the 13th so if all goes well the plan was to leave on the 14th
or 15th. The winds were very strong last night and they are to be that way all day today, so will see if the seas calm down by tomorrow or if we will need to wait an extra day. As we say, you can plan as much as you want, but the weather has the final word in the decision to leave!
The marina staff have been wonderful to work with and in particular the two women in the office, Kmar and Ameny, have been especially helpful with a problem we had. While back in the US I had ordered some cruising books that we use
to provide information on the various harbors, anchorages and marinas. I order them from the UK and due to the fact that we have to be watchful of the weight of our luggage each year I thought it would be best to send the books directly to the marina rather than to the US and save our carrying them to Tunisia. I have done this with other books being sent to various countries over the years. Well, this is the first time we ran into quite a problem. It started out right away with the vendor stated that they could not send to the marina address as it was a post office box and it was too heavy to send there. The marina assured us that they receive packages all the time, but it still wasn’t acceptable to the UK shipper. Fortunately for us we had made a friend last year and he came to the rescue for us. Marouane told us we could use his sister’s address as she lives in Monastir. New address was given to them, we paid extra for express shipping as we wanted to be sure they were there when we got to Tunisia to
start doing our research reading and we thought all would be well. Nothing could be further from the truth! Before leaving the US we heard from the vendor that the shipper could not deliver the package as they could not find the street address in Monastir. Very strange, but sent various messages back and forth with Marouane and the company to clarify the exact address even sending them a link on google map! The package arrived in Tunisia on April 4th
, we arrived on April 16th
and still no package in Monastir. I had to ask help from the marina office as I couldn’t call the company due to the fact that their automatic phone message was all in French. Both Komar and Ameny got involved in this process as it took a lot more than one call to them. Fortunately though for us they were able to make contact with one of the woman at the shipping company and found out the problem was not the address at all – it was that customs needed to be paid before it could be delivered. We were more than willing to do that, but the added question was if we would
have to travel to Tunis to pay it. We worked it out that the shipper would pay for the customs in Tunis, turn the package over to Fed Ex and when the package was delivered to Marouane’s sister in Monastir, the customs would be paid back to the delivery person! We got the money to his sister through the kindness of another of Marouane’s contacts and we waited some more. On May 7th
we were surprised by a “knock” on the boat. When we went up to see, we found it was the Fed Ex delivery person with our package! We then paid the customs fee (which surprisingly was less than we were told it would be) This was amazing as we had plans to leave on May 10th
so things were coming together. We still aren’t sure how the delivery made it to the marina with Marouane’s sister’s name and address on the package, but am sure that the two wonderful women in the office here had something to do with that!! We never thought when we ordered these books that we would have to get so many kind people involved to help us – a special thanks to
Couldn't Really Capture the "Free For All"
it is at this intersection - interesting to walk through!
Kmar & Ameny in the office, Marouane and his sister, and of course Mr. Larouissi. He helped numerous times with transporting the money back and forth and even came over to the marina to help figure out how to try to simplify the problem of our possibly trying to pick up the package when it was now addressed to Marouanes’ sister. He made some calls and a couple of trips to pick up a letter written in Arabic to the shipper. Fortunately we didn’t need to use the letter or travel to Tunis, but as mentioned it did involve Mr. Larouissi’s traveling back and forth for our benefit. It sure seemed to have taken a small village of people to make this delivery happen – thanks everyone!
We had a canvas cover made for our main sail with sails repaired and cleaned last fall and they were delivered the day before we flew back to the US. With the red Sahara sand we find constantly on the deck we decided to wait to put our sails on til it was closer to the time of leaving. That sounded like a good plan, but we forgot that we didn’t get
a chance to try the sail cover. Work on the cover looked great, but we found that there was a slight problem – where it hooked on to the mast it was a little “short”. The man that had made it for us last fall said to be sure to call if any adjustments needed to be made so we made contact and within a couple of days the modifications were completed and worked perfectly. Another one checked off the list of things that need to be done before we leave.
Now back to what at the time we thought was the only thing holding us here in Monastir – completion of the canvas work which included the bimini, dodger and cockpit cushions. The business is made of a father, Mohamed, and his two sons, Mehdi and Abdel. The two sons are the ones that you typically deal with and we have now nicknamed them the “no problem” brothers as well as the “tomorrow” brothers as those English phrases are used extensively by them! We had told them the deadline was to have everything done by Monday, May 13th
as we were definitely leaving on the 14th
. Monday we
saw both of them on the boat working to get things finished and by 7PM it was done. Payment was made and then we were very surprised as they asked us to come to their home on Tuesday night (yes, the weather is not cooperating and we are staying in Monastir a few more days). As we told them during the day on Monday, the weather gods have been helping them with this project due to that creating some new delays for us – they got a laugh out of that when I typed that into google translate! The work has been very good and we are pleased with the results – as we say, Monastir is not a bad place to stay a few extra days – it is just that we have been anxious to get started with our sailing season for this year as our plan is to travel quite a bit of distance in 2019.
Ramadan started here in Tunisia on Monday, May 6th
. During Ramadan a cannon is set off twice a day, once at 3:20 AM and the other at 7:20 PM to announce to everyone when you must stop eating in the
morning and when you can start in the evening. We were very honored to be asked to come to their home, but wasn’t sure how it would be as neither of them speak that much English and we definitely don’t speak French or Arabic (only a few words of each).
We were asked to meet at their shop at 7PM and at 6:50 Mehdi came looking for us, fortunately we were very close to leaving the boat already. As I told Bob I’m sure they are anxious to start their evening meal on time during Ramadan. We went to their home which is one that had been owned by their grandfather. We were very warmly greeted by their father Mohamed whom we had met before at the shop, their mother Naima and Mehdi’s wife, Mer Yem. We sat down to a lovely table and enjoyed a delicious meal. There were dates on the table which we understand are very typical to eat during Ramadan. A wonderful fish soup was first served with bread, then a Tunisian salad, followed by lovely couscous. Brik was an accompaniment that was delicious. It reminded us of a samosas (in shape, but not the
filling) for those that know them. We had tried a brik last fall that is the type sold on the street, but this one was very different and was excellent tasting. At the end of the meal fruit was brought to the table, but no one partook as we all seemed to be quite full. Later a delicious cup of coffee was served with rose water. Now I know another use for the rose water that Mohammed (the student) had given us earlier as a gift. We wanted to bring something as a gift to the dinner and had asked for a suggestion from Kmar in the marina office. She had suggested a cake and gave me a recommendation of a bakery to buy it from. A piece of the cake was served with the coffee. An amazing meal indeed. At the end of the meal, we were given a very large portion of the couscous to take back to the boat for us to eat. How very generous indeed and a wonderful treat as the flavor of it was delicious. Naima is definitely a wonderful cook. Fortunately I am now in electronic contact with Mer Yem so she has
been helpful in giving me some recipes!
Now, how did we communicate? English, French and Arabic were all spoken and google translate was used quite a bit, but it is amazing how much can be communicated through many hand gestures and signals. We got a chance to see a few photos as well of family on both sides – ours and theirs thanks to facebook postings! Mehdi and Mer Yem were recently married so looking at the wedding photos gave us a whole different topic to find out more about – the wedding celebration traditions. Always so much to learn from each other.
We understand fully how tiring everyone is during Ramadan with the lack of food and water all day, so we felt bad keeping them from their sleep, but they also seemed to enjoy our time together. In looking at the weather we will be staying a few days more in Monastir. At first we were anxious about getting a start on our cruising season this year, but with unexpected invitations such as what we just experienced, we have no problems with staying in Tunisia. The people here have made our stay a wonderful one and
we will have great memories for years to come.
It is now Wednesday, May 15th
and the winds are now predicted to come out of the east, the exact direction we want to travel so those of you that sail, you can understand it isn’t the best time to be leaving. Guess a few more days in Tunisia are in order.
Well, it is now Saturday, May 18th
and the winds keep changing again. We thought we would leave tomorrow, but now it seems that Monday may be better. At least with these extra days we have had some time to do more teak on the boat (that is Bob’s job as he does it so well!) and I got to take another load of wash to the laundry so more walking to the other side of town – not a bad thing, just time consuming. I know I could catch a taxi, but the walking is good. It also allows me to stop at the open market on the way back to pick up some more strawberries for breakfast, fresh lemons for our tea and cooking and mint for our wonderful mint tea in the evenings.
Best of all is that we received another wonderful invitation to dinner for Friday night. We were walking through town and stopped off to visit with Slah, a shopkeeper that we have gotten to know. We first met him last fall and were taken by his gentleness and willingness to take the time to talk. His English is very good and we found out that he had made a friend with a cruiser a few years ago from the US. Well, to make a long story short, Bob had wanted to buy a caftan but didn’t want anything fancy, just a plain one with long sleeves. Most of the ones you see in the shops have quite a bit of embroidery work on them and are with short sleeves. Slah told us that he would try to find something that fit the bill for us as he knew we were headed back to the US but would return in the spring. Sure enough, Slah came through with his promise and found the perfect one for Bob. Unfortunately when he tried it on he took it off before I could get a photo of him in it, but it was definitely
a sale. Well, as mentioned the other day, Slah invited us to dinner so we set it up for Friday night. We had already met his son, Alsalene as he helps out at the shop after school. We told him that the American tradition is to bring a gift of some type so let him know that we would bring a cake for dessert (now that we know of a good bakery). We met at the shop and Alsalene and we took a taxi to their place while Slah came a little later by bike. This gave us a chance to meet his lovely wife, Zahia; his daughter Rania and a nephew, Karim. They have a lovely home and with Rania speaking English as well, we didn’t have to depend on google translate that much all evening.
The table was beautifully set and once the cannon went off at 7:19 PM we sat at the table and had a wonderful meal. Zahia must have been cooking all day as there were so many offerings – they wanted to treat us to a variety of Tunisian local dishes. The starter was fish soup with plenty of accompaniments such as spicy
A Great Association to Help Educate
about the health of the marine environment here
olives, bread, harissa (hot green pepper sauce), Tunisian salad of cucumber and onion, and brik (a crepe wrapped around a cheese, onion, caper, and parsley filling). There were other offerings that unfortunately I didn’t get the name of it but one was a tartlet and another looked like a meatball. The main course was couscous with beef and they even had chicken cutlet pieces as well. Quite the feast indeed. After dinner we retired to the sitting area where a table was filled with fruit and sweets. We enjoyed this with a cup of wonderful coffee as well as fresh lemonade. We were both stuffed by the end of the evening and yet we were given some of the brik and tartlets to take home – very generous of them and definitely enjoyed the next day!
Tunisia will definitely hold a special place in our heart as we have met so many wonderful people here. The people are what make the traveling experience worthwhile. We did get a chance to do some traveling around the country for a couple of days and found that the country itself has a lot to offer in the way of beauty and there
is plenty of history to learn, but the people is what we will remember the most.
As mentioned we did take the time to see a little more of the country – it was two very full days with lots of things to see and activities and as such it deserves a separate blog entry so that will be coming.
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