It was clear that we were not going to reach the island of Djerba before dark, especially when we found ourselves swallowed up in the heavy traffic in Sfax, Tunisia’s second largest city. Our progress was slowed even further by the construction of a large overpass and the detours that it forced on us. We carried on, knowing that there was another city enroute, where we could stay for the night.
I read the description of Gabès, and the hotels recommended by the Lonely Planet and we weren’t looking forward to arriving. Gabès is a major transport hub, and instead of being situated along the coast, it sits inland at the edge of a huge palmeraie, (the palm grove around an oasis where dates, fruit and vegetables are grown). It was once a rich city, when the camel caravans crossing the Sahara made it their destination in the region. In the mid-20th century, oil was discovered in the Gulf of Gabès, and now the refineries, located between the sea and the oasis, pollute the air and burn the eyes. What a place to spend the night!
We weren’t encouraged by the descriptions of the hotels and we had a hard time navigating the streets in the dusk, but the hotel was marginally better than anything we had hoped to find. We picnicked in our room and drank some of the wine we brought along with us from Tunis. Luckily, I was able to pick up the WiFi signal near the elevators on our floor, so I spent the evening in the cold hallway uploading photos so that I wouldn’t get too far behind on my journal. Anil stayed snuggled in bed, reading up on the destinations we hoped to reach on our tour around Tunisia.
Sometimes we get so ahead of ourselves, we arrive in a place without having done any reading in advance. It doesn’t always matter too much, but it does help us to include the must-see sights in our itinerary. The historic and cultural background provided by the guidebook certainly adds to our appreciation of each place we visit, so we do try and read as much as we can. The maps are a vital part of the guidebook and I don’t know how people manage with reference books that don’t include maps.
We were up and at breakfast before we usually stir. I took some photos of the lovely woven tapestries on the walls of the lobby; there wasn’t anything else to show my readers of this part of Tunisia. When we went to pay our bill, I was surprised to learn that the charge was TD 76. I told the man that he quoted me TD 67 the previous night when we checked in. It wasn’t a big difference, but it was the principle of the thing. Anil confirmed that he had heard the lower rate as well. We were told there had been a mistake, and we shrugged and paid the bill as presented.
It wasn’t until we were out on the highway that I realized that the man had kindly changed from French to English when we checked in, though English was a language he clearly didn’t speak often. It was probably an honest mistake. How many times have I had it wrong when I try to say the numbers in a language not my own? That is most likely the reason for the mix up, that or the fact that in Arabic, the numbers are read from right to left. If that was the case, then 76 could become 67 quite easily. C’est la vie!