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Sahara

Day 90: El Haddej to Sousse

Monastir, Tunisia 
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Nostalgic return to the Ribat at Monastir, a ninth-century Arab fortress, in which the tolerant Tunisians let us film Life of Brian, twenty-four years ago. Aficionados will recognise the tower from which Brian leapt only to be rescued by a flying saucer.
Michael Palin - SaharaI meet up in a local café with a group of Tunisians all involved in the tourist industry. Around us are tables full of men playing cards. Some football flickers away, largely ignored, on a wall-mounted television. El Mejid, a pale-skinned, squarely built Tunisian, who looks more Irish than Arab, runs Berber evenings six days a week out at an old olive oil factory. Belly-dancing, bareback riders, waiters with bottles on their heads, a meal and all the wine you can drink for 13 dinars a head, roughly £6.75. One of his friends puffs on a chicha, a hubble-bubble pipe; another, wearing a tracksuit, arrives late after a work-out. He looks tired and his back is giving him trouble. He's the only one who breaks ranks and expresses any doubts about the benefits of tourism. He worries about the growth of the cities, with a corresponding break-up of family life and threat to traditions.

'The wedding,' he says, 'the traditional wedding used to be about one week. Now it's only one day or two days.'

His colleagues shake their heads. They seem willing to pay almost any price to bring in the visitors. I ask if they see any point in limiting the new developments.

'No limit, I think. We used to receive three millions and now about five millions. Maybe in ten years ten millions.'

Ten millions. On current figures that's more than the entire population.
Monastir, Tunisia 
click to enlarge 
file size
Nostalgic return to the Ribat at Monastir, a ninth-century Arab fortress, in which the tolerant Tunisians let us film Life of Brian, twenty-four years ago. Aficionados will recognise the tower from which Brian leapt only to be rescued by a flying saucer.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 90
  • Country/sea: Tunisia
  • Place: Sousse
  • Book page no: 237

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