9.17.2010

Hammamet on a waxing gibbous moon



Heading out of Tunis from Tunisville Train Station
Tunisian landscape in fleeting images escaping my quizzical gaze due to train travel. In some sense this gives me a sense of peace as all I can do is behold the beauty of the moment of landscape as it parades by. I feel calm & sedated by the late afternoon sun bursting in through my window seat as it tantalizes me to dare to ponder what knowledge the landscape indeed does hold. What memories those mountains must contain. Why was that strip clear-cut? Is there indeed a trail that leads up to those repeater towers? Can I get there? Will there be bandits awaiting our caravan on the other side? Where does the desert begin? So, this is my mode of thought on the train...
Introducing Hammamet- The sun nearly setting presented a romantic welcome. We wandered down Avenue Habib Bourguiba instinctively heading for the sea. The sea delivered. It always delivers. The moon is rising over the kasbah and and I'm ready to rock. The Hammamet Kasbah is especially intriguing as it's backdrop extends down onto the shores of the Mediterranean, broken only by a sweet promenade. Incidentally, it looks as if there is a little longboard break that goes off during storms... So solo ojo and myself, weary from our journey as well as anticipating where exactly we were going to sleep later that night, settle into a dreamy little outdoor cafe where throw pillows, carpets and big blocks of white limestone reigned. The open sky hovered above us with a faint outline of distant stars, cafe direits were served, sheesha (water pipe) loaded with tufa (apple-flavored tobacco), Tunisian Arabic rhythms flowing through a sweet sound system, incense wafting- hedonism (as in pleasure minus pain) prevailed in those moments. The minimal lights of the top of the kasbah hinted at the grandeur of the spectacle that we beheld: what were those walls of the kasbah trying to tell me? The history, the people, the battles, the architecture hinted at these truths, and the intoxicating smells took me back in time.

As time passed, soon we realized we needed to secure a sleeping spot for the night. I entertained the thought of sneaking onto the roof of the cafe right in the shadow of the towering kasbah walls... Reality found us wandering on the beach en route 2 kilometers towards Hammamet sud. A suitably dark spot of open beachfront between resorts determined our journey came to an end for the night. Setting up camp took all of... 2 minutes! Out came the sleeping bags and into them we went. Good night. Of course, I slept with one eye open for a long time as I had heard about the infamous 'bandits' that roam the beach. At some point I came to my senses and while watching the moon glide across the sky towards the west fell asleep. When I awoke the moon had already set, and my familiar night sky had emerged front and center stage. Cassiopeia was the first to catch my eye, then Pleiades, and finally the dippers big & little and Orion. As I laid awake and listened to the stars, I realized that Orion appeared as if 'he' was leaping out of the sky and diving into the ocean head first! This thought entertained me for quite a while- until contemplating what I would do if/when the 'merman' would rise from the ocean and come onshore and sweep me off my feet and take me back into the dark, murky depths with him to live in his oceanic kingdom. Yes, I must of dozed off at this point...

The moment of sunrise was a symphony of silent cacophony. I can't exactly recall what woke me but the noise of the sunrise indeed was brilliant in its textured hues of arrival. The silhouette of a long decrepit ship lay in waste a few meters from our sleep spot in its haunting splendor. Like an exoskeleton of a creature that still sparked life in its decay (and haven't I observed this phenomenon so many times in my archaeological career). 

said sleeping spot
we decamped (haha!) and headed up the beach to search for an early morning coffee. The town was still asleep at 8am but we did find this sweet space here serving illy Coffee- which was GREAT! Furthermore, a mamma kitty and her 2 kittens entertained us with their antics and all around good attitudes towards being street mascots. Their chocolate croissants were also pretty tasty and much appreciated.

this, of course, is Don Quichotie... 

but what is more interesting is where this found-objects sculpture is... It is the present day site of the International Cultural Centre, but is in fact a mansion designed ( & built) by Romanian millionaire George Sebastian. It's temporary inhabitants included architect Frank Lloyd Wright, uhhh... Erwin Rommel (Nazi commander) while the house was Axis HQ during WWII (he was supposedly a big fan of the baths there), and Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister during WWII) - who wrote his memoirs from here. The entire property is in a state of decaying splendor, and not exactly worth the $5 Tunisian Dinar entrance fee. Not to fear though, we made our efforts worthwhile in the end and roamed through the orchards there finding in our possession many succulent pomegranates, some aloe vera cuttings, and another clipping of another plant- which shall be the start of my small garden here in Tunis (Lil`D you should be proud of me- and I definitely thought of you during my diurnal raid- haha). 
Rommel's baths...
solo ojo's eagle eye spotted this mini turtle/tortoise creature guy- who peed when picked up. Poor thing was scared.
nice living no?
and... then we went back to the beach...