February 16, 2010

Conversations de Tunisie: Sidi Bou Said

In every touristic area of Tunisia, whether you're a man or a woman, you get heckled by various men trying to sell you their wares, practice their English with you, or guide you to some landmark in exchange for some dinars for being your tour guide. Some places are worse than others, but generally it's just a nuisance.

Unless you're a single woman walking alone.

By our last day touring Tunisia, I was really sick of men calling out to me, "Helloooo," "Eeengleeesh?"

I was wandering the streets of Sidi Bou Said, a suburb of Tunis, eating a chicken chawarma sandwich on some freshly-baked tabouna bread and taking photos of all the blue doors, with a blue Mediterranean backdrop.

I heard a man calling after me. First in Arabic, then in French. I rolled my eyes. Not again.

His calls became more urgent. "Mademoiselle, mademoiselle!"

I turned around. "QUOI?!" WHAT DO YOU WANT.

Oops, he was a police officer.

I gathered he was telling me that where I was walking was forbidden or private - in any case, interdite - and I was shocked, not having seen any signs.

"Interdite, ici?" I asked.

"Oui," he said, fortunately for me, with a smile.

"Je m'excuse..." I smiled back, and headed back up the cobblestone slope to explore more forbidden pathways undiscovered, while the sun was still shining and I could hear the roar of the sea.

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