Let me start out by being very honest…it was never my idea to go to Tunisia. In fact, Tunisia has never been even remotely on my radar, bucket list or any list that I’ve ever made of places I’d like to visit. Moreover, right up until the taxi arrived at our front door to take us to the airport, I was in the bathroom crying because I SO did not want to go to Tunisia. We had been seeing reports on the television news of the fiery protests going on in Tunisia, and I had read the bright red-banner warnings on the Canadian Travel Advisory site clearly written in large bold lettering: “Avoid All Travel” and “Avoid Non-Essential Travel”…mind you, they were for regions that we would not be close to…but it didn’t matter. I was downright frightened.
Of all of the places in the world we could have picked to travel to, WHY TUNISIA?!!!
Normally we travel to Cuba (possibly the safest place in the entire world for tourists) and stay there for several weeks in the winter. But this year, my husband had decided to accept a friend’s invitation to come to Mahdia in Tunisia instead. He and his wife had spent many winters in Tunisia and had often asked us to join them. But we kept going back to our beloved Cuba. But our friend’s wife had passed away earlier in 2017, and so my husband decided that we should go and keep our friend company this year.
So now here we were…Cuba was calling to me to go back…but no, here we were on a 6-hour overnight flight to Paris where we would connect to the 2-hour flight to Tunis, in Tunisia, Northern Africa. Despite all of my fervent prayers, none of the flights were cancelled and we made our connection, landed safely in Tunis, and were quickly and quite easily ushered through customs….possibly one of the quickest Custom processes we’ve ever experienced in all of our years of travelling.
Okay, so far so good. It was all going well. Until our luggage didn’t show up. And as it became clear that we were going to be stuck here in the airport for awhile to process the lost-luggage claim, I had to walk out into the airport arrivals section and search through the daunting crowds for our pre-booked, pre-paid taxi driver so he wouldn’t leave without us. It would be a three-hour drive to Mahdia, and at this point, Tunisia was still a very strange and scary world for me…I really didn’t want to get stuck.
The airport was very crowded, and loud, with mostly men yelling out the names of the people they were there to meet, and I quickly felt overwhelmed, exhausted and frightened. Unable to speak the language well, and therefore unable to figure out which of these several dozen men was our real taxi driver, because it seemed that they were all claiming to be the one, it was clearly becoming a futile – and frightening – search…one man kept urging me to go outside of the airport with him…I was terrified, and broke away from him and made my way back to the luggage carousel and promptly broke down in tears. Hey, it had been a very long journey, my 77-year-old husband’s hearing aids were not working, he was beyond exhausted and having some difficulty staying clear-headed, and all I wanted to do was run back to the Air France desk and ask them to take us home.
But instead, I had my little pity party, then found the lost-luggage desk, realized that they spoke perfect French and so then gave my Quebecois husband the job of translating our dilemma to the woman there. And thus we encountered our first of what was to be MANY encounters with very good, kind Tunisian people. The woman behind the window was very sympathetic, patient and kind…she filled out all of the paperwork for us, then used her own cellphone to call out to the transportation desk and located our taxi driver (who it turns out was the man who had been trying to get me to follow him outside) and gave him and us the directions on how to find one another. After about an hour and a half we finally got in the cab, with only our carry-on knapsacks and a lot of apprehension about the long drive ahead of us.
The drive to Mahdia WAS very, very long, through dark and winding roads, and many seemingly deserted seaside towns, none of which did anything to soothe my fears and anxiety. We had no clue where we were or where exactly we were going. After a little over three hours, we finally pulled up to our huge beautiful hotel, where we were warmly welcomed with open arms and a whole battalion of very friendly buffet restaurant staff who had known we were coming and had volunteered to keep the restaurant open just for us. The food was plentiful, hot, fresh and delicious. It was such a relief to finally be there, and a lovely way to end what had been a very long and somewhat harrowing journey to get there. With no luggage and therefore nothing to unpack, we fell into our five-star king-size bed and had one of the best sleeps of our life. And so ended our first day in Mahdia.
Coming up…more Meandering Through Mahdia with pictures of the Medina, Markets, Mediterranean and cats, because there were lots of cats in Mahida. Stay tuned!