Monday, 1 March 2010

Magic carpets

The shot of the airplane wing should be fair
warning - I've been on holiday and took lots of pics. We left the freezing conditions of England and flew to Tunisia to see if we could catch some sunshine.
The first couple of days were so much warmer than we were used to, and we lapped it up. Locals, of course, scurried around in overcoats, hats and scarves. The beach was cool and misty but provided a lovely walk from the hotel to Port El Kantaoui - about five kilometres there and back again. Lots of chances to indulge a taste for retail therapy around the port - and when I say port, think of rubbing shoulders with the yachting crowd rather than ocean liners. Lots of leather goods, pottery and carpets spewing out of the shops and across the paving stones, plus lots of places to eat if you were in the mood.

Silver sand, gentle waves and the kind of sunshine that keeps you warm but you can't see the sun. Click on the pics for a larger view.

The second day was warmer, and we walked north instead of south, through the local village and were amazed at the number of half completed houses. Buildings started and not finished. We found out later that Muslims are not supposed to practice usury, so they must save their money and build until the money runs out and then save to build the next section. All over Tunisia, raw breeze blocks and concrete hurt the eye - but the people will not be in debt, and every stark structure sports a satellite dish.
The third day we took a bus ride into Sousse, visited first a carpet and then a leather factory. Again, don't think factory in UK terms. The leather factory operated in three rooms no larger than my living room, and the carpet factory was perhaps three times that size but still not huge. Had we been inclined or had bare floors back home, we could have bought a carpet for perhaps a third of what it would cost here in England. Worth flying out for a holiday just to pick and purchase a handsome Berber or Kashmiri rug...

We were given a demonstration of different
qualitites of carpet. First of all, there is the
standard wool carpet, perhaps ten feet by six, double knotted by hand, three ladies working for six months on a design that lives only in their minds.
Then comes the same carpet, but made in lambs wool - three ladies, nine months and this carpet will not burn, my friend. At this point the carpet dealer gets out his lighter and holds the naked flame to the lambs wool carpet, and, amazingly, it does not burn. He gestures to the standard wool carpet - "It would leave hole in rug. Do not try it at home."
Then comes the Kasmiri carpet - same design, six ladies, nine months, guaranteed by Tunisia government for 100 years. Dh and I look at each other and struggle with the idea of returning to Tunisia, carpet under arm, trying to complain that it has worn out after fifty years.... At this point, with perhaps thirty or forty carpets strewn on the shop floor beneath our dazed eyes, not one of his audience can speak.

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