FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH **
Contributions by Mariem Khedhiri
Facts you did not know about Tunisia – officially the Tunisian Republic.
It is the northernmost country in Africa and its name is derived from its capital city, Tunis, located on the country’s northeast coast.
1. How are birthdays celebrated?
It is common to celebrate birthdays at home with family and friends or out at a hotel or restaurant.
2. When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?
If it is for the first time, we shake hands. Otherwise with friends and family we kiss on the cheeks – twice and sometimes four times – we are a tactile nation.
3. What languages are spoken in your country?
Mainly Tunisian Arabic and French, and English at times for official purposes.
4. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?
We use the 24-hour clock
5. What side of the road do people drive on & what do we need to know about driving in Tunisia?
Our cars are left-hand drive so we drive on the right side of the road. How do we drive – judge for yourself: Watch this video
6. How important is punctuality?
Punctuality is important to us. People might arrive for parties a little late but never for business meetings.
8. Are there any Traditional Dances?
Folkloric – watch
9. What traditional Festivals are celebrated in your community?
Two of the most popular are The International Festival of Carthage and the Kef Chante La Tunisie. The International Festival of Carthage is the longest-running festival in North Africa, having been established in 1964. This year, the event celebrates its 50th anniversary, which will be celebrated by seven major performances. Besides the acclaimed local and international singers from the variety of jazz, fashion and folk genres, the festival sets the stage for a great selection of ballet and dance shows as well. Set in a refurbished Roman amphitheatre that seats up to 7500 people this is a remarkable open-air summer festival.
Another city boasting a UNESCO World Heritage Site is Dougga, which is believed to be the best-preserved Roman small town in North Africa and is home to Africa’s biggest Roman amphitheatre, built in 168 or 169 CE. This exceptional and architectural heritage is the venue for the acclaimed Dougga International Festival, which is worth visiting for the setting alone. The theatre can seat up to 3,500 people, who can enjoy a distinctive cultural experience and choose from a rich list of classical music and theatre events.
10. What are your seasons like?
It is sunny in the spring, hot in the summer, warm in the autumn and cold in the winter. In summer temperatures can reach up to 40°C and in winter they can fall as low as 5°C. Sometimes you can experience all four seasons in the same day.
11. Tell us an interesting fact about your President?
The President of Tunisia, formally known as the President of the Tunisian Republic, is the head of state of Tunisia. Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi (or el-Sebsi, born 29 November 1926) is a Tunisian politician who has been President of Tunisia since December 2014. Previously he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1981 to 1986 and as Prime Minister from February 2011 to December 2011. He has two sons and two daughters.
12. What are Tunisia’s major industries?
Agriculture and textiles – Agriculture is still the mainstay of the Tunisian economy, although minerals (especially crude oil and phosphates), textiles, and tourism are the leading sources of foreign exchange.
13. How do people spend their free time?
In coffee shops and travelling. Because Tunisia is so close to Europe Tunisians love to travel to Italy, France, Spain and Turkey. Otherwise we love to sit in coffee shops for hours on end.
14. What do people drink?
Coffee, tea, and alcoholic drinks like beer and whiskey
15. What is a popular local dish?
Couscous is Tunisia’s unofficial national dish. But it is more than just a staple food: for many families preparing and eating couscous is a ritual and a tradition that binds the generations together. The basic ingredient in couscous dishes is semolina. This is mixed with water and rolled, originally by hand, to make small grains of various grades. These grains are then steamed over a boiling sauce in a two-chambered pot called a keskes. Once the couscous grains are fluffy and the sauce is cooked, the two are mixed together and served, often with meat or grilled fish on top.
The king of Tunisian cuisine, however, is undoubtedly ojja, the spicy tomato-based stew common to nearly every working-class Tunisian restaurant. The dish is very saucy, with a rich, spicy flavor. The base consists of tomato paste, garlic, green peppers, coriander, cumin, and a healthy dollop of harrisa, the delicious hot pepper paste found in a majority of Tunisian dishes. The ojja is a deep red colour, with two very runny eggs on top.
16. What do you pay for? (USD 1 = approx 1.95 TND)
In a restaurant… A cup of coffee – 3.00 to 8.00 TND, a Coca Cola 2.00 to 5.00 TND, a 2-Course meal for 2 people – nothing extravagant – 10.00 to 30.00 TND At a shop… A loaf of bread – 200 to 400 millimes, 1 litre of milk – 1.00 to 1.200 TND
17. General Security? It is generally calm and secure. We did, however, recently suffer a very unfortunate and unexpected terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
** Meaning: From the highest authority. From the source. Origin: In horse racing circles tips on which horse is a likely winner circulate amongst punters. The most trusted authorities are considered to be those in closest touch with the recent form of the horse, that is, stable lads, trainers etc. The notional ‘from the horse’s mouth’ is supposed to indicate one step better than even that inner circle, that is, the horse itself