Tunisian weddings, boats and taxis

a Little Suffering & a Big Smile

“What’s your best tune?” My friend screams to the taxi driver sitting next to him. The taxi driver looks at my friend, puts on a big grin and starts fiddling with his cd-player extensively. Meanwhile, my friend already regrets that he asked. You see, we’re driving fast, in Tunisian traffic.After what seems like ten minutes, the taxi driver gives us all a self-assured look (still not paying a lot of attention to the road), and within five seconds Dr. Dre’s The Next Episode starts blasting from the speakers. His sound system completely maxed out, the car almost breaks down from the vibration. We get all kinds of looks from the people and cars we’re passing.It’s not exactly tempering his enthusiasm, and before we know it he starts switching lanes, accelerating and breaking at completely random moments. The guy is obviously trying to impress us, and we’re doing the best we can to seem impressed. Just coming from a relaxing evening in a traditional shisha cafe, where we met up with our friend who’s getting married in the following weekend, the difference between those two situations couldn’t be greater.

A few more turns and accelerations through the streets of Sousse and finally we arrive at our hotel. Still in one piece. While the driver is clearly proud of his stunts and music, we can’t stop laughing. Happy because we’re still living, but mainly because we know we’re in Tunisia and about to have a nice little adventure. 

It’s a block party

The following days aren’t less eventful. Cruising in our hired cars to the village where our friend’s wedding takes place has been one of the more surreal things we did over the course of a week. Cars like a Ford Figo and a Volkswagen Polo are completely not suited for driving on a road, that’s not really a road. Or was it?When the place you go to doesn’t have an address, and directions are somewhat similar to take a left at the first cactus, you know you’re headed to somewhere special. And you also know getting stuck with your car is something that just must not happen. Still, we had no time to worry about such things.Because just when we started to ask ourselves whether we could ever find our way back to urbanization—especially since it gets dark pretty early in Tunisia (and in a place with no lights the darkness can be quite intense) — we spotted a jogger doing his thing in the middle of completely friggin’ nowhere. We checked with our friend, but that wasn’t someone from the nearby village. Where the guy did come from, and what he was doing jogging there, is still a mystery.

Still, the next situation was already unfolding, because we finally made it to our destination. There’s a special feeling when you arrive at a place that’s so completely different, that it takes time to adjust yourself to reality. What enhanced this new reality was the surprise soundtrack that accompanied the whole experience. As soon as we all stepped out of the car and our friend walked to the main house of the village, screams erupted from almost a hundred people. We had a true welcoming party.

The makeshift dj-set that a group of guys came rolling in with some time later, the enormous amounts of food on the table and the general happiness of the entire thing turned it into a true Tunisian block party. It was so amazing, that it could only be trumped by the actual wedding a day later, which is best described as: More of the pumping Arab music from the night before, more non-stop dancing, and again a lavish meal that was now consumed a few hours before in a roadside bbq place where about 30 kilos of lamb meat was cooked up especially for us. Plus just seeing our friend being the happiest man on the planet topped the whole thing off beautifully.

Trash and trees.

“No, you guys can just stay in the water. Grab the rope.” We assumed that’s what the two guys steering the catamaran were telling us after we took a little dive in the sea. We had just been swimming for fifteen minutes and were about to go back on the boat, so we could enjoy the Tunisian sun and talk some more about the great wedding weekend we just experienced.Since the two guys kept on pointing to the rope and wearing very encouraging smiles on their face, we finally obliged. Sure, why not.Well, ten minutes later we discovered why not.

While we were holding on to the ropes with all the power vested in our bodies, our catamaran-steering captain accelerated some more and now we were literally being dragged through the sea, while the rest of our friends (who were smart enough to actually get back on the boat) laughed at our desperate faces.

For the record: It’s completely not cool to hold a rope with one hand, your swimming trousers with another, avoid to drink lots of salty water, pray that the boat will stop before your body is ripped into pieces, while of course trying to maintain a smile on your face, like you’re actually doing the coolest thing in the world.

Ah, Tunisia…

This beautiful week of travel reminded me again of the most important lesson I learned crossing the globe: a little suffering, a little patience and a big smile; and the best experiences will come. No doubt.

Title Photo Credit: flickr