Updated on December 29, 2020
A spicy dive into Tunisian culture
Tunisia reveals a rich past that lies beneath an eclectic mix of intertwined cultures and religions. Throughout time, it has naturally become a multicultural and multilingual country that perfectly combines traditions and modernity. Fortunately for us, both of our Tunisian volunteers, Akrem and Oussama, are from different parts of Tunisia, so we got a wonderful chance to explore this magnificent country from north to south and back again.
Tolerance, hospitality and joy…these are just a few words that describe Tunisian culture. It’s so different than we have used to see in Europe in nearly every possible aspect you can think of. It’s mind-blowing to realize how many different civilizations have left a certain degree of cultural print that makes Tunisia so interesting and magnificent.
While playing history-related games, we learned that Tunisia and European countries surrounding the Mediterranean, especially Italy and Spain, have so many things in common, such as the Mediterranean diet and the excessive use of olive oil, the traditional Tunisian music that bears a close resemblance to flamenco or numerous linguistic coincidences. Surprisingly, but all of them also have been under the same empire or territory for more than a thousand years, with the Phoenicians, with the Roman Empire and later under the rule of the Arabs.
None of us had ever seen such a beautiful yet complicated alphabet as the Arabic one before. It really seems like a piece of art. Just the fact that you need to read Arabic from right to left is incredible. Learning it made us think how amazing it is that so many different, complex languages and cultures co-exist. However, we must admit – it takes a lot of effort to speak the language, considering the fact, that many sounds for us, Europeans, aren’t quite familiar.
The landscapes of Tunisia are simply beautiful, and it is impressive how diverse it is. Through the screen, we were able to see some of the most breathtaking sights of the islands, cities, mountains and deserts. On top of that, Oussama surprised us with jebba – a key element of Tunisian traditional men suit made of flax and silk – that he brought from his home. We would be lying if we said that we didn’t find ourselves with a strong desire to visit the country and experience all the beauty with our own eyes.
One extra spicy advice we can give you after the Tunisian cultural month – never judge harissa (a Tunisian hot chilli sauce) from the one you can find in the supermarket! We highly suggest you to try the real one, the one that will make you feel like there is smoke in your mouth. Apart from that, we also tasted some very delicious and hot traditional dishes, such as leblabi (Tunisian chickpea soup), mlewi (Tunisian flatbread), kafteji (Tunisian fried vegetables) and couscous all spiced up with, you guessed it, harissa. All dishes were made with an incredible amount of patience and love, and we really appreciate it.
Ayeshkom, ragazzi, for an extraordinary experience full of new flavours and sounds that we will cherish forever!
Akrem, our lovely Tunisian host: “It has been a blessing to share what I felt representative of what makes me Tunisian. I’ve been raised to be a good host and generous to my guests, so it was natural to share that with the good company of the team. I liked how they were receptive and engaged they were in the different activities that we did. Moreover, the fact that few of them would try some of the dishes that they helped me prepare. Even though a month is short to show all about a culture, it’s a good amount of time to get to know it and have a taste of it. Thank you, guys, for giving me the privilege to be an ambassador of Tunisia! I hope I was a good one!”