Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Land of the Lotus-Eaters

Cay and I recently had a chance to travel to Tunisia. I've been looking forward to traveling to that country and seeing the island of Djerba. Djerba is the largest island off North Africa and a popular tourist destination for Europeans.

Djerba, as some scholars claim, was actually the place that Homer was referring to in his "Odyssey" as the "Land of the Lotus-eaters." A.D. Godley asserted in his notes on Herodotus:

"The island of the lotus-eaters may be the modern Djerba. It is a likely candidate because there are very few islands on the North African coast; however, Herodotus says that the Lotus Eaters live on a peninsula, not an island: There is a headland jutting out into the sea from the land of the Gindanes; on it live the Lotus Eaters, whose only fare is the lotus. The lotus fruit is the size of a mastich-berry: it has a sweet taste like the fruit of a date-palm; the Lotus Eaters not only eat it, but make wine of it."

The island of Djerba may no longer resemble the mythic place, but if the lotus-eaters could make Odysseus' men want to stay and forget all their cares in the world (to their boss' dismay), the island's charm is now in drawing rich tourists all over the world to play in their extravagant hotels, free from their responsibilities (and the paparazzi).

For a working class guy like me, just driving around and taking pictures will suffice. I'll just look at the swanky hotels from the outside, thank you. Heck, I stayed in a run-down inn that had no heater, sleeping with several jackets on to fight the winter cold. Man vs. Wild: Roach Motel episode.

The place was lively enough even during the winter. I guess those people from the north consider not seeing any snow at all a luxury.

Whimsical pic no. 1: This bank is either reminding you to be thankful or to pray that you'll get your money back someday.

Houmt Souk is always ready to receive shoppers who would like to walk around its markets looking for interesting buys.

While in Djerba, tourists should make sure to try the many seafood restaurants all over the island.

The market also has a place where they sell the catch of the day through auction.

The island is renowned for its beaches where the rich and the royals hobnob with each other. I cold care less about that. Come summer, I'll be here for the topless women. Yeah!


...I mean the scenery. Yes. The... uh... natural view of the place. That's it!

Whimsical pic no. 2: You've gotta give it to the businessmen here. They're so honest that they have no trouble telling parents what their kids will get when they eat their products.

The trip from Tripoli to Djerba only takes a few hours. And the travel was nice. It was the first time I actually crossed a land border. (I was born on an archipelago that was completely surrounded by water.) Cay was also excited to see so many flamingos living by the coast of Tunisia. Small treats, but fun nonetheless.

This was just a short trip to see the place. We hope to be able to visit again this summer to fully enjoy the place during peak tourist season.

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