Posted by: gabriellereneeleblanc | May 8, 2012

A Tale of Tunisia

Hammamet, Tunisia is absolutely beautiful.

There are a plethora of affordable hotels and restaurants within walking distance to beaches with some of the finest sands and most beautiful blue waters in the world.

Most amazing is the lack of crowds along the shore. When compared with the masses that consume the surfs of Miami, those of Hammamet are almost deserted and, with the added bonus of being in an exotic foreign land, this lovely part of the world seems the perfect vacation destination.

Never stay in Hammamet.

The peace and beauty of the area are decimated the moment the sun sets and the air-raid sirens begin. This is not an exaggeration. You see, Hammamet suffers from a very active night life in the form of incredibly loud and amazingly annoying outdoor “discos” that play Arabian techno and trance music until dawn.

Not until 2 or 4 a.m. Literally until dawn.

It’s not just trance music. Oh no, that would be too low-key for the hardcore partiers outside of Carthage! The trance beats and techno rhythms are punctuated with random sound effects: cannon fire, whistles, and—yes—the before-mentioned air-raid siren. (Our first night there, we thought the city was under attack. Turns out, the only thing in danger was our sleep schedule.) This is all accompanied by the club M.C.’s screaming along in Arabic and French over the world’s loudest megaphone, while random samplings of 80’s pop hits are fused with cartoon catch-phrases. Groovy.

This happens every single night.

Exhausted from nights of no sleep, you can drag yourself down to the sandy beaches and attempt to nap beneath an umbrella, but beware! An annoyance of another kind is certain to surface: The prepubescent and teenage boy!

Laugh all you want, but in a culture where the majority of women walk around covered from neck to ankle and are forbidden from engaging in any physical intimacy until marriage, the average teenage boy goes just about mad at the sight of an exposed calf. An American girl in a bathing suit garners a lot of attention.

They don’t mean any harm by it: they’re just…enthusiastic…and have apparently learned the Western forms of courting by watching old Hollywood musicals, as they attempt to woo women by serenading them. Unfortunately, these boys seem to only know one song in English. So, if you’re walking the sands of Hammamet don’t be surprised to hear echoes of the same chorus following in your wake.

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you…

This gets real old, real fast.

As an alternative, I suggest staying for a time in the lovely Sidi Bou Said in Carthage, Tunisia. An absolutely beautiful town built atop hills, the white buildings with their blue trim and shutters brings to mind the coastal towns of Greece. Even more picturesque are the purple vines of wisteria which grace the doorways and eves of the residences, and the views of the water from the over-looks are simply incredible.

There is a surprising lack of birthday wishes and discos in this idyllic town.

From here, it’s a short trip to the ruins of ancient Carthage, where you can walk under the blistering sun at your leisure.

All kidding aside, the ruins are not to be missed. Simply embrace the dress of the locals with long, flowing garments of thin materials and you’ll do fine under the African sun. Not only will you find you’re more comfortable amidst the elements, you’ll be more at ease amongst the locals.

As with any foreign land, it is best to adapt a “when in Rome” mentality, out of respect for the culture of the land you’re in. This is especially important for Western females wishing to enjoy an Eastern country without harassment. I’m not saying all American women should don a burka before going shopping in the medina, but long sleeves and a scarf for your hair when venturing outside of tourist areas will make your excursion a much more pleasant experience.

Besides, what’s the fun of exploring a new culture if you’re not willing to immerse yourself within it? Sample the cuisine, don the fashions: ride a camel on the beach, smoke shisha in a café, enjoy yourself!

There is no greater experience in this world than a new one.

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