Tunis and Dream-Tunis



I lived in Tunis for two years. It was (and, I’m sure, still is) a beautiful city.  I lived in a house not far from the shoe market and the gold market and the perfume market, down the street from the coppersmiths’ district, within shouting distance of the az-Zeytouna Mosque. My walk to work took me through the busiest part of the tourist / merchant area, past the rug merchants and the spice merchants and the olive-wood merchants, past the British Council library, out through the Bab Bhar, down Avenue Habib Bourguiba, past the French-built Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Paul, past the statue of the fourteenth-century Tunisian historian Ibn Khaldoun holding his book against his chest.



It was a sunlit city, warm, funny, full of unique and wonderful neighborhoods.



I dream of it all the time.  Dream-Tunis is not quite the same as the real Tunis in which I lived.  Dream-Tunis is full of dramatic landscapes and vistas.  In Dream-Tunis I’ll walk down a boulevard and see the entire city from a height, or realize that there’s a whole stretch of seacoast I never visited.  Or a mosque, or a whole stretch of old buildings.



I think it’s because the real Tunis was (to me, in the mid-1980s) just as dreamlike.  I remember, one Saturday, deciding to walk north (an unfamiliar direction) through the medina, to see what I’d find.  I found residential areas, and more markets, and roofed streets, and unroofed streets.  I found a housewares market, like an open-air Walmart.  I found another shoe market.  I found quiet neighborhoods full of palm trees growing between the houses. 



I didn’t want to go home.  I wanted to keep going forever. 



I think that’s why I still dream about it.  Tunis was a labyrinth, but all of its secrets and revelations were beautiful.  I always wonder: what would have happened if I’d turned left instead of right?  What doorway would I have found?  Another spice market?  Another thousand-year-old mosque?  Another Turkish palace?



My friend Nejib (who now directs a large technology operation in the city) keeps inviting me back to see “the new Tunisia.” 



Maybe I will someday. 



I hope it’s still as intricate and beautiful as I remember.




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

2 Responses to Tunis and Dream-Tunis

  1. Malou says:

    Tunisia has always fascinated me but never been to that part of the world yet. I’d love to visit this country one day and experience the culture. 😉

    • Thanks for your note. Tunisia is beautiful, and I hope to go back one day myself. By the way: I love your blog, and I love it more every time I read it. The photos are wonderful, and I like your stories (and recipes). I very much intend to make the bruschetta you described recently, which sounds simple enough, and I saved one of your cake recipes recently. And I have sent some of your flower photos to my friends.

      Thanks again –


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