Pottery and Rugs and Doors; Oh My!

After 14 days in true quarantine (not even allowed to go to the store), we are free! We can’t drive yet and we don’t really know where to go or how to get there, but our new coworkers are amazing. They have swooped in with offers to take us out and give us a true Tunisian experience. I was excited about shopping for pottery and I wanted authentic stuff, not just the stuff they sell to tourists. Our new coworkers Bobby and Kaouther offered to take us to Nabeul, about an hour from where we live in the La Marsa area. Nabeul is known for their pottery and we were not disappointed!

Being very new to Tunisia and very new to world travel in general, the smallest things are fascinating to us. The drive to Nabeul was no exception.

Apparently today the traffic wasn’t too bad, but even on a “not bad” day, lanes, speed limits, and turn signals are optional. Helmets on motorcycles, car seats for kids, and seatbelts also don’t seem to be a concern around here either. 

The best part of the trip was the line to the toll booth. I’ve never seen people walking around on the highway, but here, not only are they walking around, they are selling bread, mint tea, and other various snacks. Interesting to say the least, but I’m totally on board! We didn’t have our kids with us today. (Thank you Suzanne and Blake!) But I can’t tell you how many times the kids get hungry during car rides. What a lifesaver it would be to have the snacks come to us in the middle of a trip. Brilliant!

After waiting in the car line for a bit, we reach the toll both, and to my surprise, free of charge, they hand us snacks! What?! I think it’s some kind of marketing ploy, like how they give out free food samples at Costco. We got chicken-flavored corn chips. They were similar to Bugles… but chicken, and I totally dig it. They were actually pretty great. I’m going to look for them at the store tomorrow. (See! Toll booth snack marketing works!)

Finally, we arrive in Nabeul, and Kaouther and Bobby knew exactly which shop to go to for our pottery needs. We turned down an alley and into the shop which was more of an open-air series of rooms and corridors. In every single nook and cranny, from floor to ceiling, were stacks and stacks of hand-painted pottery. I have never seen anything like it. As soon as we walked through the entrance, I was feeling very thankful we didn’t bring our kids! There was barely enough room to walk, and you are literally surrounded by breakable plates, bowls, tiles, lamps, and more. It was fun but a bit overwhelming. So hard to choose! Luckily, it is very inexpensive and I am in no rush to buy everything now. I have a whole year to shop around and collect what I want. Today we got 2 trivets, 2 ice cream bowls, a large serving dish, an appetizer dish, a small tray for holding small items like jewelry, and number placards for the outside of our house. Trust me, I could have gotten so much more, but we are pacing ourselves. It would be very easy to get carried away though. All of the items we bought were around $40 (US equivalency) total. 9 items, some of which were quite large and intricate, all for 120 Dinar. Not too shabby!

We stopped at an old cafe for refreshments and our first taste of Turkish coffee and then we were off to the Medina (market). We wandered around looking at everything from spices to purses and clothing, until we found ourselves in a Tunisian rug shop (and it was air conditioned! Hallelujah!) The salesman in the shop was quick to show us how the rugs are made and then swept us off to a back room where we sat on cushioned benches and were served tea. As we sipped on our tea, rug after rug was rolled out. One rug, the salesman (who was quite the character) told us would bring fertility and if we bought it we’d have twins. (Umm, no thank you! I definitely don’t want that one!) The rugs were gorgeous, but we were ready for lunch and left without buying.

The last leg of our journey ended at Le Petit Pecheur, a little seafood restaurant a few minutes away from the busy shops. The highlight of this meal was Justin ordering fish and then having to walk over to a glass case to pick out which fish he wanted. They weighed it and gave him his price before taking it back to the kitchen. And of course the surprises don’t stop there. When we sit down, there is a basket of bread. After we order from the menu, they also bring out salad and soup. (The soup was amazing- some sort of seafood soup with couscous and spices). Then they bring out a full plate of pasta with spicy red sauce and a plate of seasoned rice. I thought, who ordered this? Well, no one did. This is also just part of the before-meal dishes. These were eaten community style- 2 plates of food, 4 of us. Everyone just eats what they want from the middle of the table. At this point, I didn’t even feel like I needed what I ordered! When all was said and done, the check was around 80 Dinar (so about $30 US) for all 4 of us eating a four-course meal.

It was the perfect first outing with experienced tour-guides/ new friends. Great conversation, lots of little breaks for relaxing, amazing shopping, and lots of new sights to take in, including plenty of those beautiful, iconic Tunisian doors I’ve been excited about finding. Turns out, it’s not much of a hunt. They are everywhere! Thank you to Bobby and Kaouther for a wonderful experience. Looking forward to many more!

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