We raced through the night, with music blasting out of the speakers – into the purple sky. You took my hand and raised it to your lips, smooth and practiced, but after Germans, I didn’t really mind. Two hours before, we’d sat on the terrace overlooking the sea, and the sound of waves crashing against the soft sand lent a keen delightful edge to the band tinkering in the background. I didn’t want to go, of course, because I am, despite appearances, a paranoid chicken, but who could resist – for longer than one course of an overcooked pavé de loup de mer – your deep dulcet French-Arabic tones? I’ve had my own sweet share of Arabic men, and you were one fine specimen: tall, broad-shouldered, and with those thick generous eyelashes around the eyes the colour of molten sugar… That you’d had your own brush ready against the canvas, and felt the breath of the abyss might have had something to do with it as well.
But – to the wind! – I dropped my water bottle on you in the plane, and now I climbed into your car (but let my friends know where and what I was doing, because, well, better safe than sorry after all), and off to the Tunisian capital to get a peek of its infamous nightlife.
We’d gone straight for the bright and the blaring, the recently opened Billionaire Gammarth lounge, because, I mean, who doesn’t like a bit of red carpet at the entrance, complete with its own step and repeat banner? I hope the name was meant to be funny, a self-ironic nod that, really, we don’t take ourselves that seriously here. Let’s walk in, and observe the stocky Tunisians, immaculately dressed, and girls as immaculately made-up, to the amount that I’d normally wear for a ballroom dancing competition. And I must admire the skill — and Arab faces can take a lot of makeup, with those kajal-lined expressive almond eyes, and strong-willed noses, and all that framed by lush, perfectly groomed hair. Dance-wise, though, especially after Africa, there were no skills to speak of. But nonetheless, it was great fun – people drank, but with obvious enjoyment, and even if someone did start showing signs of getting boisterous, it was contained to their tables. I saw a curious sight in one of the bathrooms – the cleaning lady, dressed in hijab, was helping a local girl into her skimpy night-out get-up – trying to zip up an open-back, lace catsuit (that was obviously one size too small). My companion shrugged – he said that these things do exist side by side here, and are not really the way one makes them out to be – frenetic crowds with pitchforks (if only! and as if!..) – over there on the other side of the sea…
The sea, now, deserves its own mention – nothing better than to dip into the smooth waters, and feel the pull of the currents, and the delicious emptiness between the toes, as you swim forward, with the brilliant sun in your face. And even if not (for the week did turn out to be somewhat rainy and cloudy throughout), sitting on the shore, with my dress billowing around my ankles, and that briny wild smell up my nostrils, by Gods, must be one of life’s quiet unassuming pleasures!..