BC and myself arrived at Monastir airport at around 8pm on Xmas eve. After the usual trawl through immigration and customs it was onto the bus to take us to our hotel and we finally got there at around 11pm. It was Xmas day before we had the chance to look at the hotel and the facilities but we at least had a room on the ground floor over looking the beach and by 10-30am I was lying by the pool with a gin and tonic in my hand. The hotel and the facilities would have been fantastic for a family holiday in the summer time and there is enough to keep kids amused all day and plenty for them to eat and drink from 7-30 til midnight.
However BC and me are not a family and as it was winter three of the bars were closed and we decided to get out of the hotel and look around. The first thing I noticed was the groups of men all over the place. They do not seem to be doing anything other than standing and chatting and of course smoking which like Greece is the national pastime. The second thing is that there are no women to be seen. I do not know if the men keep them in little boxes in the house and only let them out on special occasions but I saw very few.
This may not sound like a big deal but as a couple walking past coffee bars and not seeing any women at all it is a little off putting and made me feel intimidated enough to not take BC into any of the cafes we passed. To do this you have to go into the main towns and get amongst the tourists. This in itself is fraught with problems of beggars and people persisting that they know you from your hotel and can show you around. What this means is they drag you into shops owned by relatives or friends for commission on any sales made.
Going for a drink is another problem and although no holiday should consist of mere drinking in the sun, it is at least a very large part of what I go away to do. Tunisia is a Muslim country and therefore dry. There are very few bars and when you can find one they are relatively expensive. Johnny Walker black label cost around 3 pound a shot here but over there it is 9 pounds a shot if you can find it. Walking around the large towns is fine but in the small villages you really should go in groups. It is not that it is unsafe but it can be really intimidating to have groups of children pester you for dinars. You have to remember that to them we are seen as really wealthy Europeans who have more money than they will ever earn in several lifetimes.
Of course this is all relative, it does not matter how much money you have if you have to shell out as much as you bring in. Their food is a lot cheaper and rates and water rates and such things do not exist, but they still see you as filthy rich and therefore able to give money away. I initially felt sorry for these kids but after a few days of being constantly pestered any feelings of sorrow vanished and I thought this is the government’s concern not mine and any benevolence towards them was replaced with anger. I can see beggars and ne’er do wells in my own country I do not have to travel over a thousand miles to see it.