Our time in Tunisia was largely spent outside of metropolitan Tunis. We drove an average of 100 miles per day to olive groves and olive mills with cultural stops and artfully prepared signature meals in between our olive oil business meetings.
We we saw ramparts and defense works, garrisons and holy mosques, Roman amphitheaters and Phoenician towns. We enjoyed seafood overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and a Bedouin breakfast under unimaginably old olive trees.
Time stretched endlessly into the distance behind us, yet seemed timeless and ever present before us. The remarkable thing about every historical site or district we visited was that it was part of everyday life; special, yes, but not behind glass. To walk among and feel the vibrations of a place and reach through time in one’s mind; to experience the taste of dust and dates on ones lips is a privilege not soon forgotten.
Invasion upon invasion swept ‘round the Mediterranean from Spain to Syria, from Carthage to the Swiss alps to control trade routes, key water ways, and farmland. Armies on foot, boat, horse and elephant expanded and contracted over the centuries, and the mix of language, cuisine, religion, custom and races is evident throughout the region.
As we drove from our hotel to the medina in Tunis I found it interesting to learn that the Afri were a tribe who dwelt near Carthage in pre-Roman times. Following the defeat of Carthage in the Third Punic War, Rome set up the Province of Afri with Carthage as the capital, and as the Roman suffix “ca” denotes “country or land”, the place name Afri-ca was born. Later, the name spread so that the entire southern shores of the Mediterranean from the fertile Nile Valley to Carthage became known as Africa, and then eventually the continent.
Here are a few “Parting Shots” from my very brief Tunisian travels (thanks, Look Magazine). Next time I visit, I hope to see Carthage and Tataouine in the Sahara Desert, and spend more time with the olive farmers, too.