Camels on the Beach

Tonight, I read in horror and grief that one of the ports on our Mediterranean cruise had been attacked by terrorists.  Even worse, it was on the exact same cruise line, cruise ship, and itenarary that we were on in July of last year.  It made me so sad, as the country where this happened was Tunis, an area that has such a rish cultural history and where I saw and experienced Africa for the first time.

As we landed in Tunis, there was a different air about the place.  It is a Muslim country, and we are Americans, so we did feel a bit like fish out of water.  Nervous, we were, but not enough to stay on the ship.  We ventured out, on a cruise-sponsored excursion, to the beach.  We were, literally, the only Americans on the excursion.  

Only speaking fluent English, it was hard for us to try to pretend we weren’t American.  We went out to the beach, and my Sweetie got in the water.  The surf was extremely rough that day, although the water was quite warm.  Other people journeyed far out into the surf, past the rough waves and into the calmer waters.  I advised him not to go to far, as I was not planning to get in the water.  

We were surrounded by other people – Japanese, Korean, English, French, Spanish, Italian, and others.  I didn’t feel unsafe on the beach, but I certainly didn’t feel safe.  I was nervous the whole time, which is one of the main reasons I didn’t get into the water.  I did walk down the beach a bit, just picking up a few shells and watching far out into the sea.  It was a sandy place – with sand everywhere – like you’d expect to see in Africa.  Very little vegetation, although there was some here and there, especially tall, spindly trees with very few leaves.   

We walked back from the beach to the hotel, which hosted our tour.  Again, there was only one other person I recognized as American, although by her children’s accents, I believed they lived in Tunis or somewhere in Europe.  She fit in.  We didn’t.

We had strong coffee, I exchanged my money for theirs, and I bought a few trinkets.  We enjoyed sitting in the hotel.  We rode the bus back, stopping briefly at the aquaducts at Carthage.  History in the making.  I remember driving past the Bardo Museum, on our way back, the tour guide pointing out that the Museum and Carthage had tours that we could go on, should we choose to again visit the city.  I remember thinking how I wish I’d gone on a tour of Carthage.  

Tonight, I can’t imagine my pain if I had.  

I felt angry tonight, that a few bad seeds had taken a place that needs tourism and that could be a wonderful place to visit.  Taken it and made it, again, controlled by a few.  I felt sad tonight.  Sad for the loss of life, for the loss of a bit of peace in the Med.  I felt scared.  I can’t describe it, really, but we were ON that ship.  The Splendida.  I know it’s bow, I know it’s guts, and I know it’s fantastic layout.  I imagined those 12 people, who stepped off the ship, ready to see Carthage, never to return again to the ship.  Their baggage and souveniers from their previous ports of call sitting in their rooms, waiting for a return that will never occur.  I felt sorry for the people of Tunis, who were nothing but hospitable to me.  They were nice.  The spoke English, because I certainly couldn’t have bought magnets and candy otherwise.  And the country has a lot to offer. 

Tonight, I think about those lost, and the lost.  I hope for the future.  I also think about my favorite part of Tunis, which was the baby camel we saw walking on the beach.  Nothing much neater than a camel on the beach.  I have photos of him, and I think about him a lot.  I know it sounds silly, but he just looked like he needed me to love him.  And, I do.

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