Yesterday Tony and I went on our first date in Tunisia. And it was wonderful. Our Irish cleaning lady happens to be great with children (and our children like her, which is no common feat), so we engaged her services for the evening in the capacity of babysitter. Then Tony and I took a long walk down the beautiful Hammamet beach. We passed the Hammamet Cultural Center, which was a mansion built by the Romanian millionaire who made it fashionable to holiday here. We passed Sinbad, the large hotel whence come all the Germans on the beach. And then we almost passed a burnt-out shell of a building, with a wide marble staircase leading up to it from the beach. But we decided to go in instead.
We actually took this photo from the front, a week and a half or so after the house was trashed by revolutionaries. It is ten times more impressive from the back, but we didn’t have our camera with us on our date last night. The marble steps lead up to a gigantic pool with a view of the sea. The entire back of the house, top and bottom stories, is made up of large picture windows, which have been dramatically smashed into inch-thick glass shards all over the lawn. The inside of the house is blackened and piled with debris, and all furniture, fixtures, and anything else moveable has been carried off. Every possible surface is covered in graffiti (French, Arabic, and even a little English) proclaiming various uncomplimentarily pithy (and unfortunately unmentionable on this blog) things about Ben Ali and all his relatives. It’s quite an impressive visual symbol of the revolution.
We sat on the side of what once was the lovely infinity edge pool, and was now half-filled with reeking sludge water, broken marble slabs, and other miscellaneous wreckage, pondering the sobering Ozymandias-like message of the scene. Then Tony took up a marble slab and used it to chip off three translucent blue tiles. I half-heartedly protested his blatant (but superfluous) defacement of private (public?) property. But secretly I thought it was pretty cool to take home our own little piece of the Tunisian revolution.
Here are our historic tiles, pictured on our lovely and functional coffee table/map of Tunisia, just under the location where they were found. Afterward we proceeded on to the Hammamet Medina and enjoyed a nice dinner in a restaurant overlooking the sea (for the equivalent of 20 euros, including drinks, dessert, and tip. We love Tunisia). All-in-all, I consider it a smashing success of a first date. I think this man’s a keeper. Even if he did just buzz his head.