Saturday, September 25, 2010

Detour: Hammamet, Tunisia

I am blessed and grateful to work for an organization that helps people around the world.  This past week I had the opportunity to deliver some training to my international colleagues at a conference in Tunisia.

I've never been to north Africa, nor to a nation that is primarily Muslim.  I was in Tunisia for only four days, and confined to the conference center, but I still got a taste of the culture and reveled in the sound and visual beauty of Arabic.  My rusty French also got a workout, and allowed me to have some pretty intense conversations with the people around me.  Including, most memorably, the artist who used my hand as his canvas:

The hotel/conference complex in which we stayed was a bit surreal-- "Tunisia" in Tunisia, aka the Tunisian Las Vegas.  Similar to The Venetian or Paris in Las Vegas, the entire compound was constructed to recall a particular geography-- in this case, classic Tunisian architecture.  Some of the details were truly beautiful:

Other details were just plain weird.  Witness this, a garbage receptacle/ashtray.  Similar figures dotted the entire grounds.
The conference center was even more bizarre, a subterranean forest reminiscent of the Ents in Lord of the Rings.  Except these leafy fellows had fake cats perched in the branches:
Fortunately, it is more difficult to decorate the sea.  The water, as always, was calming and warmer than I had expected.
I will be back.  This time, I will leave behind the Ents and the green-faced statues and head for the Sahara and its camels.

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