Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Opening the blue door

It’s a carefree blue, that. The kind of blue that automatically makes me draw lots of fresh sea air into my lungs and breathe out everyday worries onto the breeze.

After just a few hours in Sidi Bou Said I feel like I have been on holiday for weeks. Surely it must be those sky blue doors, set off against whitewashed walls and mirrored in the sky above and the sea beyond.

My colleagues and I try to avoid the cruise ship masses that have descended on this little town outside Tunis today. Since it is a bit of a tourist trap, Sidi Bou Said is not a good place to eat – for that we will opt for the La Goulette (seafood) or La Marsa (Italian food) areas close by – and it is worth seeking out the little shops in the side streets where memento prices can be as much as three times less than right at the bus stop and around the main areas of interest.

We spot a yellow door in between all the blue ones and our curiosity reveals a charming hotel, complete with Phoenician mosaics and a typical blue door leading into each room. The receptionist tells us that Hotel Sidi Boufares used to be a Sufi school, no wonder then that the serene atmosphere now officially has us in relax mode.

In typical tourist style we click away on our cameras and keep walking the cobbled streets until we find a sheesha bar with a view of the Atlas Mountains on the other side of the bay. We order almond tea, which arrives in tiny glasses and tastes just like the sickly sweet Moroccan mint variety. The almonds are floating on top with a few fresh mint leaves. It’s not my favourite but in the spirit of this day I enjoy it immensely.

On our way to find a taxi back to the Golden Tulip hotel in Carthage, a local lady lures me into her shop with some jasmine oil. I buy a hand made perfume bottle to save the oil in - for those days when I want to smell like the white flowers and open the blue door in my mind.

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