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Saturday, 28 March 2009


Before you start, you need to get some Tunisian Dinars and these are only available in Tunisia. The going rate is about 2 Dt to the 1GBP so exchange rate sums are quite easy. The products are very cheap and haggling successfully makes them even more so.
I found a great woolshop in the Medina in Tunis. This was a "prix fixee" shop. The bloke sold wool, mohair and mixed yarns by the cone, skein and hank and I bought five hanks of finely spun, undyed lambswool for 9Dt. I shall see how it winds and knits up and then tell you more about it.

Outside the souks, the locals shop and haggle in small markets and by the side of the road. This was a ute full of fresh peas and artichokes and the man was doing a roaring trade in the main street in Hammamet

But, unfortunately for the orange seller just a couple of meters away, the police arrived and caught him unawares. The uniformed officer wrestled with the seller for his scales but it took the brute force of a plain clothes assistant to wrench them away and toss them into the police car. He also helped himself to a bunch of artichokes while the argument continued and the summons was being written out on the bonnet of the police car,

I'm the sticky beak passing by on the left with the white bag. It was a few minutes of almost vaudevillian farce until the chastened traders drove no more than ten metres up the road and started again. I'm not sure how the orange seller managed without his scales but people were still stopping to buy from him. We found half a dinar on the road where he had been parked and passed it on to the next beggar we saw thereby enabling the orange seller to fulfil his obligation to help those less fortunate than himself!

A shopping trip in Tunisia would not be complete without someone trying to sell you a carpet or three. We walked along the beach from our hotel to the Medina in Hammamet and passed a fishing boat and a group of men cutting up and sharing out a few cuttlefish. "Hello" said one"Do you remember me?" We looked baffled but he explained that he was the crepe-chef from the hotel and of course we didn't recognise him without his chef's hat. He walked along chatting to us and flattering us by remembering us. He explained how lucky we were to be visiting the Medina this day because it was one of only two days a month when the Berber rug-knotter was in town giving demonstrations at the Government Rug Shop where only genuine Berber rugs were to be had. It was our lucky day. He took us there. He walked fast through the winding streets and alleyways of the Medina, but we kept up.
We were introduced to the Berber woman, who so cleverly made the rugs and invited to sit beside her for a picture which I declined because I did not want to distract her from her work. Joseph, who was in charge of the shop, showed us the beautiful rugs, explained how easy it was to have them sent home and then took us upstairs to sit down, have tea, and BUY RUGS!!!
The light dawned. "No Thankyou" we said, explained that we were only sight-seeing and left.

We eventually found our way out of the Medina but as we negotiated the way back along the unfamiliar paths, two more Tunisians approached us and said "Hello, do you remember me? I'm a chef/waiter at your hotel but of course you don't recognise me on my day off!"
Later we kicked ourselves for being so naive. For a start, neither of us had ever been near the crepe preparation area in the dining room, the Berber rug-maker indicated that she would like a tip, the walk to the shop was too fast for us to stop and question what was happening, we were flattered by the attention etc.
If you have any money left at the end of your holiday you can only exchange your Dinars while you are still in Tunisia. Please be very careful at Monastir Airport official exchange bank. The man is very bad at arithmetic even with the aid of more than one calculator! He managed to be 20GBPs short in his first attempt to turn our Dinars into Pounds.
The weather was fine, the food was wonderful, most of the people were delightful and there is much more to tell you. We would definitely go again.
I'm off to wind the wool and knit a test patch or two.
Cheers Gillian


chillsider said...

Excellent scam, have to admire the ingenuity. When we were in Egypt they just shoved goods into our hands then acted as if we had chosen them, can see the diffident English a mile off.

sue said...

I would say that you walked away quite a bit luckier. How cheeky those people are. The wool shop looks so overwhelming, and I cant wait to see what yours tunrs into.

carol said...

Oh I did so much enjoy this account! Also the photos. Thank you. Vis a vis the remark on my blog - you are always a pleasure to read. Don't hide away!