Gabes,, Tunisia and a different look at this poor country

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is take for granted.” – Bill Bryson (Courtesy HAL)

On December 28th 201o, an angry university graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest local corruption that was preventing him from getting work or a fair hearing.  The act ignited what has come to be known as ‘the Arab Spring’.  (It also brought down the corrupt President and his wife, who managed to flee the country without being held accountable. Five months later we visited Tunis on the ms Noordam and were warmly welcomed by folks who had been unemployed for months.

It was good to return to this country almost a year later and see small signs of economic recovery.  By this I mean traffic jams in the streets and ports loading ships, with goods for export.

Gabes, Tunisia (20) (800x600)Gabes was a completely different experience from Tunis and Sousse, as the town is about 30 minutes from the port and we were forced to take a free (ship provided) shuttle into the city.  What a contrast to the previous ports we had visited which were relatively clean and the streets and roads were in good repair.  Being in such close proximity to an industrial area, some passengers felt the city was so dirty and dusty that they either stayed on the bus or caught  the next one back to the ship. I chose to stay for about an hour while Barbara stayed longer (to shop).  We both felt it was perfectly safe to leave her there un-escorted.

The welcome sign was mounted on the wall of the Grand Mosque which we took the opportunity to visit. Everyone is required to remove their shoes before entering  The opulence and cleanliness of the interior was in stark contrast to the streets and  buildings outside. Note the design on the carpet/prayer rug.   I always wondered about the orderliness of Muslims at prayer, now I know.  You can also see the bottom of the grand chandelier hanging from the domed ceiling. Every inch of the walls and ceiling are engraved with Muslim  characters.

Gabes, Tunisia (10) (800x600)

Across the street, although we came to find this out in a round about way, was the market place and a large courtyard with the usual line up of vendors selling everything from saffron  to leather jackets.  Produce and herbs are sold from what looked to me 100 pound “gunny” sacks.  See if you can spot a very comfortable kitty in the next picture.

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Across the courtyard I spotted this lonely woman weaving special baskets for her stall.

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After I returned to the ship I noticed that our hard working crew had spent the day decorating the main dining room and its entrance with scenes to coincide with “Arabian Nights” theme for the evening.  That night at dinner all of the dining room staff were wearing costumes befitting the occasion. Grand Voyages are famous for their theme nights.

Gabes, Tunisia (36) (800x598)

Next: Malta – Valletta and Gozo

One thought on “Gabes,, Tunisia and a different look at this poor country

  1. Interesting the contrasts in Tunisia–glad we got to see it last year. Hope Barb brought lots of empty suitcases–being the shopper she is. So enjoy your “reports”. Connie Palmer

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