I had an amazing time in Tunisia and Paris! In fact, I have been so overwhelmed by the whole experience, I had to take some time to figure out how I was going to blog about all of it! We were in Tunisia for 8 days and in Paris for about 20 hours. I can't wait to go back to both places!
The main reason for our trip was to attend the JCI 2009 World Congress in Hammamet, Tunisia. My BF is on the BOD for JCI USA, so he wanted to "represent" his country - and what a great way to do it! Both of us have been involved in the JC's for about 6 years and neither of us anticipated what we were about to experience on this trip.
We arrived in Tunis, Tunisia on Sunday, November 15th after an overnight flight to Paris and a connecting flight to Tunis. This was my first overseas flight ever, so I was super excited and hoping I would not be too bored on the plane. I brought several books, magazines, cards, and of course I had my BF to talk to. Funny thing is, I didn't really read much and ended up chatting and sleeping basically the whole time.
Anyhow, we arrived in Tunis and were greeted by JCI Tunisia that had a refreshment stand setup for us with juice, water, and traditional Tunisian cookies. YUM! We then took a bus to the hotel we were staying in, the Diar Lemdina at the Medina (city center) of Yasmine-Hammamet. The medina was comprised of our hotel, a conference center, several cafes, shops, and souks. A souk is basically where the people sell their wares throughout the medina and other places around town. By the time we arrived at the hotel, after 24 hours of travel, we were wiped out so we took showers and met up with some other folks from the US for dinner at a restaurant in the Medina. In fact, we were so wiped out, we just didn't care about having separate beds. ;)
We went to a restaurant called The Viking, that featured Italian and Tunisian cuisine. Of course, I started right in on the Tunisian! They served bread before our meal with a variety of scrumptious goodies incluiding Harissa, which a standard North African ingredient which is made from chili peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. It is HOT! HOT! HOT! but, I LOVED it! You can tame it down with olive oil, which of course is super tasty anyway. They have olive oil at almost every restaurant table and it is better than anything I have EVER tasted. It was almost clear, super light, and too bad the Frenchies took the 5 bottles I bought!!
Anyhow, back to dinner. They also served brushetta, olives, yogurt sauce, and mini fried bread that looked like mini pitas. We had our first taste of Tunisian wine, Magnon, and it was SO good! it was SUPER cheap at the restaurant too. It cost us about 20 Tunisian Dinars which is about $15 in the US.
I had a chicken dish with red and green peppers with a tasty sauce that was excellent and BF and I split a brik (pronounced "breek") for an additional appetizer. A brik is a turnover that is made with phyllo type dough, filled with some type of meat (chicken, tuna, lamb) and also an egg. They are really good and we had plenty throughout the week, and even made some when we got home.
After we finished dinner, they served us a shot of some licorice tasting liquor that was clear. I forgot to write that one down or take it's picture, but once we get rolling on the trip, I get better at remembering to do that kind of thing!
The interesting thing about Tunisia, is that it is a Muslim country, so they don't sell alcohol in the stores. On RARE occasion you will find it. They do, however, produce plenty of wine and liquor to serve in restaurants to the tourists. Gambling is illegal in Tunisa, but they also have casinos set up for the tourists as well. It was such an intriguing country! You will notice that the women do not cover their faces, on occasion you will see a Tunisian women with her hair covered up - mainly in the smaller non-tourist cities and in the market places. Since I did my research beforehand, so I learned that women normally wear long pants, long or 3/4 sleeve shirts. I was very glad that I brought appropriate clothing to respect the culture of Tunisia, I just felt so comfortable there. Maybe that wasn't it, but the warm hospitality of the Tunisians.