Day 4 The Morning: Kairoun
Tunisian Proverb: If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?
Day 4 of our whirlwind trip of Tunisia was a truly memorable day. It was the one highlight followed by another. There is so much to share that this day will come in three instalments, this one about the morning and another about our cooking class and the most amazing guesthouse in Sousse. The third will have recipes.
Once we had left the city behind we again are surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and lots of prickly pears. Another scene that intrigued me were people selling something on the side of the roads that to me looked like fuel. Our guide confirms my suspicions. This is black-market fuel brought over from Algeria and Libya. The money must be good because I can see many draw backs. For one we are in a desert-hot climate so the evaporation must eat into your profits and secondly its a huge fire waiting to wipe out everything around and hurt or even kill people. Later on our trip as we get closer to the Libyan border these fuel stalls will become more frequent and much bigger than what we saw today.
I have never seen a real stork and as we get near the town Enfidha we see many nesting on the electricity and telephone poles along the way.
Today our first stop is in the UNESCO world heritage town called Kairouan. The Medina is ancient and its a walled town in a town. Here we spent time in and around the Great Mosque in the centre of this walled city. It still functions as a mosque but its open to the public except on Fridays. Infidels are not allowed inside the mosque but the management graciously always leave the doors open so that visitors can view the inside. Women should remember to cover their hair when visiting this site. I may not be keen on history but architecture always grabs my attention and here is a lot to keep me happy. The initial building was built in the 670AD. Then, as people do, they rebuild their local mosque and school and general meeting place for locals when it starts to crumble and that happened in the 9th, 13th and 18th centuries. So many cultures and political events influenced the design and the decorations of this structure. One curios thing to note is that Kairouan produces the best quality rugs in Tunisia but the huge carpet inside this mosque was a gift from Saudi Arabia.
Leaving the mosque friend C and I spot some carpet / rug shops and we have to browse. In the first shop we both find rugs we like very much, but we decide to just look at the other shop too. Here are also very nice ones and they are cheaper than the ones in the other shop. So we head back to the first shop and start bargaining to get the price down to the same level as in shop two but the owner would not budge. We dont understand why he want 130 for a rug when the other shop will sell at 49. Until it dawns on us the one trades in Dinar and the other one in Dollars. So in fits of laughter at ourselves we buy the ones we liked and pay in Dinar.
In keeping with the Islamic art theme we stop at the Mausoleum of Sidi Sahib aka The Tomb of the Barber. It is said Sidi Sahib always carried 3 hairs from the Prophets beard with him and that lead to the nickname The Barber. Again the style of the building is influenced by many cultures and even I can see the Moorish and Turkish influences here. The tiles decorating the walls and the carved stucco work are just jaw dropping beautiful.
As if we have not had an overload of beautiful colourful art work our guide takes us to lunch at the opulent Restaurant Errachid. To describe this magnificent place one will have to use so many adjective like palatial, lavish …… Trust me when I
say round every corner of this building and up every staircase, you just go wow! wow! as you take in scene after setting of beauty. Photos can never do justice as one needs to see the big spaces to make sense of everything. But what keeps a good restaurant going for years is not decor but good food and even in that department we were not disappointed at all.
Then we hit the road to the coastal town Sousse.