Tunis (which is both the name of the city and country in Arabic) has some amazing things to offer, which I am unaccustomed to in the Middle East. #1 is still the public transportation. I can’t get over how lovely it is to have such a vibrant public transportation system (both a metro and light-rail to connect Tunis to suburbs), as well as buses, and of course a proper train system. Imagine if Jordan had a metro to connect the circles, or university street to other areas down south. I’m not saying I’d like to live through the traffic that would invariably get worse due to construction, but it would be a huge, important move for Jordan!
Nonetheless, the downside to good public transportation is that there are not an abundance of taxis here, as there are in Jordan. And frequently (in my few days here), I’ve had taxi drivers tell me flat out that they will not drive me to down town because of the traffic and that I should just walk. My first day, an older lady literally came out of nowhere and took my cab by telling me I could just walkt to where I was going (of course I was happy to give her the taxi, because she needed it more than I did, but I certainly could not have walked as I had no idea where I was going!) With taxi drivers, I just insist that I am new and don’t know where I am going, and so that often works…still it actually quite hard to find taxis at certain times — they are always full!
Interestingly, taxi drivers here in Tunisia have a real, functioning system to indicate that they are full (not the case in Jordan) — they have little blinking lights in their windshields that are green when they are full and red when they are empty. While this system is great, I have to admit that it seems a bit counter-intuitive to me, as I’m used to “green means go” and “red means no” — but here it is the opposite!
In addition to public transportation, the green spaces here in Tunis are amazing! There are tons of little parks and trees lining the streets. Right by my apartment is a cute little park, which while nothing to write home about (but enough to blog about…haha), it is just so nice to have green space, and shady sitting areas — after having lived in Jordan and Damascus, which have none, and Morocco, which has very little — living in Tunis feels almost luxurious on that point.
I have to admit that Tunisia is a feast of colors and beautiful architecture. I don’t always feel comfortable pulling out my camera to take photos, but I hope that with time I will!
I have included some photos here from my first few days — some of the photos just try to capture the beautiful streets, and cafés in Tunis, along with the metro, and the tanks and barbed wire that are guarding the French Embassy on the main boulevard in Tunis (Habib Bourghiba).
I also included some photos from Sid Bou Said — made famous because it is entirely blue and white, and some photos from a site visit today at Al-Manouba University right outside Tunis.