Nov
24
2009

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Kairouan

by Tyler

We left our hotel this morning after a very long, deep sleep, with a fresh positive attitude about being in Tunisia. Excited to see Kairouan, we spent this morning wandering around the medina. The streets were wider and brighter than other medinas we’ve been in so far, making for a much more pleasant and less claustrophobic experience. It was refreshingly peaceful and very beautiful.

We were only harassed twice during our walk! Both of the overly-insistent Tunisian hawkers were trying to sell us a tour along the outer wall of the medina—the entrance was a small door which, as best we could tell, led into a carpet shop. Our method of dealing with hawkers is now to completely ignore them. When that doesn't work, we issue one or two polite no-thank-yous followed by a scowl and loud NO when they inevitably persist. Neither of us enjoys treating these people so poorly but they really won't relent, we’ve had several follow us for blocks trying to win our favor.

The main attraction in Kairouan is the Great Mosque, Tunisia's most famous building and the spiritual center of North Africa. The outside of the massive stone structure was impressive; unfortunately for us, only Muslims are allowed inside the building.

Kairouan's Great Mosque Kairouan's Great Mosque

Smaller but no less beautiful was the Mosque of the Three Doors:

Kairouan's Mosque of the Three Doors

While admiring the architecture, a group of children walked by and shouted, "You have Facebook!?" and then proceeded to flex at us while jumping up and down. It was pretty hilarious!

Kairouan Medina Tyler Admiring Arch Kairouan Medina Arch Kairouan Kids

Here are some of the less boistrious people we passed:

Robed Woman Kairouan Medina Kairouan Medina Kairouan Woman Kairouan Woman

Kairouan, nearly 100km inland from the mediterranean, is the former capital of Tunisia. We’re told that the Arabs who settled here built their capital city in the desert rather than on the coast because it was the only place they felt at home. Unequipped for sea voyages and inexperienced at defending themselves against marine attacks, they were much more adept at desert living.

Walking through the medina, nearly sweating on an early morning in late-November, we were incredibly thankful it wasn't summer. This city must have been (and surely still is) unbearably hot most of the year!

Like everywhere else in Tunisia, there were plenty of stray cats wandering about, and like everywhere else, we couldn't resist taking a few photos:

Stray Cat Cleaning Stray Cat Cleaning Stray Cat Staring Stray Cats Lounging

Not far from the Great Mosque we found an odd establishment; the House of Mathematics?

House of Mathematics House of Mathematics

We haven’t seen many bicycles in Tunisia until recently. Kairouan was full of them! Here are a pair of the typically run down machines:

Tunisian Bicycle Tunisian Bicycle

There are carpet stores absolutely full to the gills with rugs everywhere. We regularly see tiny workshops completely overtaken by huge looms containing even more in the making. Who the heck buys them all?

Atelier De Tapis Carpet Shop Carpet Shop

We're both still fascinated by the variety of doorways and windows here. Even on what seems like the poorest of homes, they often have beautifully maintained doors and windows:

Kairouan Doorway Blue Window Grate

When we decided to head back to the hotel we got a little lost and found ourselves in the midst of a very active market.

Sheep Eating Potatoes Kairouan Medina Market Kairouan Medina Turnips

We walked by a man standing on a box in front of a display table covered in shabby pants. He was yelling non-stop at the top of his lungs and looking very indignant. We couldn't understand him but I joked to Tara that I was sure this is what he was yelling: "BUY MY PANTS!" "THEY ARE THE BEST PANTS!" "DO NOT LOOK AWAY!" "FOOLS, DO NOT LOOK AT ANYTHING BUT MY PANTS" "BUY THEM!" "BUY THEM NOW!"

After we passed the pants yeller (who wasn't having much success as best we could tell) we approached this unnerving cage full of trapped, jumping birds. Hundreds of them trying to escape, their claws scraping against the wood in creepy unison made for a truly horrible sound.

Caged Birds

Just next to the contraption was a man with a knife slaughtering the birds wholesale. It was pretty gruesome.

Caged Birds Doom

Just before we left I went more or less to the center of the market and spun around taking photos, trying my best to capture the pandemonium. Here they are:

Kairouan Medina Market Kairouan Medina Market Kairouan Medina Market Kid

After navigating our way out of the market we made it back to the hotel in time to upload all of these photos while we packed our bicycles and prepared to book it to Sousse. We covered 65 kilometers in less than 3 hours! So far all of the roads in Tunisia have been very, very flat. We hope it stays that way!


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6 comments

if you want to get through a lot of these countries with sanity, you will have to make all of the pestering and bargaining into a game. its all a game to them. in fact, bargaining is what everyone does there. theyre insulted if you DONT. stop trying to be nice in the way you think is normal. it wont get you anywhere but frustration.
Posted by Anonymous on November 25th, 2009 at 10:58 AM
You should check out some of the rugs that you see along the way. Paul and I bought some BEAUTIFUL persian rugs while we were in Dubai last year, I bet there are some awesome ones there for peanuts compared to what you would pay here at home! Happy journeys!
Posted by Amanda on November 25th, 2009 at 12:34 PM
we really have been slow in realizing we should stop feeling bad for completely ignoring or blowing people off. thanks for the further encouragement.

we approached the medina in sousse like a game today and it was a lot of fun.

we read about all of this before we came to tunisia but it really took some getting used to!
Posted by Tyler on November 25th, 2009 at 12:43 PM
Today's Going Slowly Journal Post is brought to you by "The Number 3" - Kairouan's Mosque of Three Doors, Three Stray Cats lounging in the sun, Three Kairouan Kids dancing in the street, and 65 kilometers to Sousse in less than 3 hours. Also by "The Letter M" - The Medina Market, The House of Mathematics, and The Great Mosque.

Keep having fun!
Posted by Mark on November 25th, 2009 at 7:11 PM
Thanks, dad :-)
Posted by Tara on November 27th, 2009 at 10:10 AM
Thanks, dad :-)
Posted by Tara on November 27th, 2009 at 10:10 AM
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