I happened to be in Sousse over the New Year period and one custom that seems to have been brought over by the French is to buy a Bonne Annee cake. There are several cake shops around the town that were selling large gateau type cakes and it seems to be customary to buy one on New Years Eve as loads of people well carrying them in large boxes in order to transport them back home.
Ramadan is a very important religious holiday and do not forget that Tunisia has a long and wide spread Islam tradition. It lasts for 40 days and starts usually in 2nd half of September. During these 40 days you will not see Muslim people eating or having drinks, even water, when it is not iftar (eating) time. And, iftar takes place at the evening and early morning!
So, you will find more than half of the caffes/restaurants' gardens closed (they keep some opened inside for us, tourists),shops close earlier (this appeared to be the trickiest part to some people it seems) according to evening iftar time that always changes slightly.
Streets get so empty before and during iftar time unlike Sarajevo where I live, and one could really sense something very special in the air.This probably mostly due to the total lack of traffic and arabs being around . Unusuall sacred and holiday atmosphere that I will try to share with you via a few photos, for a tourist's point of view;)
Don´t forget that Tunisia is Islamic Counry (but it looks very european, especially at nordic side). Don´t give presents that contain alcohol. Don´t critizise people on religion basis - especially if You are not muslim. Don´t enter mosques if You are not muslim or mosque is not specially open for tourists. If You enter Mosque, wear proper clothes (no shorts, shoulders must be covered). Tunisia is not very fundamentally religious country, but it´s always good to appreciate local customs to get friendly welcome.
Tunisia's first language is Arabic of course, but a history of colonialism and an infusion of tourism has led to people, especially in tourist focused areas like Sousse, to learn different languages. If you find yourself striking out with English, try French, which is the second most spoken language there. German also works in most hotels, as there are a lot of German tourists who frequent Tunisia these days.
For men only by the looks of things ...all smoking their hookah pipes - also known as chichas ! It was so funny just to look into these cafes and see them there looking so solemn. The water pipes are filled withTOMBAC (close relative of tobaccco) - the tombac itself is placed on top of the pipe and covered with a very hot piece of charcoal. The smoke is then filtered through the water before being inhaled.
The Tunisians believe in eating produce which is currently in season - so foodstuffs outside of this period are difficult to come by. During our stay it was time for oranges and olives! I must say the blood oranges were the juciest, most tastiest I can ever remember having. Freshly squeezed orange juice was available everywhere and there were many novel ways of displaying the oranges.
The turkish bath house or hamman is still very popular. Many locals do not have thier own bathrooms but cleanliness is very important to them. This one was in the midst of the medina and had separate times for men and women - wish we had time to enjoy (or is it endure) one - from my memories of one in Turkey they are quite invigorating and very good for cleansing the skin. Often hotels will have a hamman service for guests.
Tunisia is a muslim country and Fatima hand symbol is often see outside houses. The fingets represent the 5 pillars of the Muslim faith - prayer (5 times a day), fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, tithing of their income and helping others.
This is a lovely photo of the bloke who owned the camels, what a great laugh he was, and he tried to sell me one of his camels, but i think trying to get a camel through customs would be a bit silly hahahaha.
Many countries, including Tunisia, are predominantly Muslim, so the religious sites you are most likely to encounter, are, predictably, mosques. This is a brief tip of advice, written from the point of view of a non-Muslim, female traveler (yours truly!!!):
- Do dress modestly, covering arms, legs, shoulders and the like, no frivolous dressing will be allowed. Hire the modest dress if needed;
- Check whether you are allowed into the mosque at all, since most of them admit you only into the courtyard, and some do not admit non-Muslims at all. However, in several countries you may be able to visit the interiors of many mosques;
- Respect the boundaries laid and do not attempt to enter further (I saw such a thing once, and it did arouse ill-feeling);
- If possible try to avoid going even to the courtyard on Friday afternoon, since I remember this is the most important praying time of the week;
- If you are curious, feel free to ask questions (though not of people hurrying to pray) and most likely you will be answered: I’ve always found people proud of their culture and heritage and ready to explain it;
- Do not criticize things we in Europe and in the West might (such as separate praying space for men and women), for such are the customs of the land and mosques are the least appropriate places for such topics.
This advice is based only on common sense, but it allowed me to see something of the mosques and learn loads of interesting info on Muslim countries, their religion, and culture. Really helped me when we had a general education class on religions at University:))
These you will find all over Tunisia, there dirty, smelly, bad tempered, and they also have very bad breath (have you met the wife) hahahahaha.