Monday, 28 April 2014

The African way: just right for a holiday

One of the main benefits of a holiday is to get away from the breakneck pace at which we spend so much of our lives. And from the pressure of deadlines.

Also, if you live in England, it’s to go somewhere with more reliable weather. Or perhaps I should say, weather that’s less reliably grey, muggy and wet.

So we’ve chosen Tunisia for a week, around Danielle’s birthday, and with three friends.

We flew into Enfidha yesterday, a large regional airport. Which felt, looked and operated exactly like any large regional airport in Europe. There was no sense of being in Africa, even though the temperature – thank God – was appreciably milder.

Once in the terminal building, everything kept working in a perfectly efficient and well-oiled way. People with clipboards approached us to check whether we were booked onto the hotel shuttle. It turns out they couldn’t find our names on their list but, hey, that happens in Europe all the time too. They accepted our booking confirmation, in any case, and told us to head outside, turn left, and take bus 2.

That’s when things started to come apart. There were fifty or sixty buses out there and no way of seeing where bus 2 ought to be. So we wandered up and down the lines until we found the one with a square of paper pasted to the windscreen with a 2 on it.

“The Hotel Sindbad?” said the driver, “We don’t go to the Hotel Sindbad.”

“Ah,” I thought, “perhaps we are in Africa after all.”

This had a certain familiarity. But one of the appealing things about Africa, in my relatively limited experience, is that things generally work out, if not always in the way you first imagined. And this was to be no different.

A colleague of the driver’s came over and launched a discussion in Arabic, in the course of which his hand gestures rather suggested he was explaining where the Sindbad was.

“It’s OK. Load your bags,” the driver told us, to my relief, an effect slightly spoiled when he went on, “we just have to wait for some other passengers.”

Fortunately I’d brought plenty to read with me, because it turned out I had plenty of time for reading. It took an hour and a half to fill up the coach. And the trip involved stopping at serval other hotels, before we reached the Sindbad. But reach it we did, safe and sound. In time. As for on time? Not so much. Luton to Enfidha airport (1200 miles) took two and three-quarter hours; Enfidha to the Sindbad (32 miles) took four hours.

But as I said, we’re on holiday. What time pressure are we really under? And the lesson was a good one. Africa’s good at teaching the value of patience, to learn the value of waiting and doing other things, instead of always chasing after the next urgent goal.

Sardine boats on the beach at Hammamet
The Medina in the background
Today we strolled in a leisurely manner along the beach into Hammamet. We wandered through the Medina, we came out and relaxed in the sunshine over mint teas.

Temperatures in the mid twenties Celsius. Good company. No time pressure. A valuable lesson in treasuring the moment which I needed Africa to teach me again. And just right for a relaxing holiday.

Taking the time:
what the chambermaids did with my tee shirt


Anonymous said...

Tunisia is supposed to be the home of the Jellabia; enjoy them.

David Beeson said...

Oddly enough, I've seen just one so far. And no jelly babies at all