Monday, November 14, 2005

Dancing the Night Away

Even though Loren and I love to go dancing, we rarely do. I think the
major blocker is that we both tend to fall asleep at around 11:30, and
that's usually when things are just getting started. In Tunisia, it's
been even more difficult since most of the clubs are way out on the
North side and there is not public transportation that will get us
there easily. In fact there's no public transportation to some of
these areas at all, except for taxis. And while a six or seven dollar
cab ride there might not seem like much, the cost doubles for the ride
home at the wee hours of the morning. Add cover charges and a couple
of drinks and you're looking at a 50 dollar night (which is about 10%
of my monthly salary!).

About two weeks ago, Anise, the owner of the small pirate video store
asked us if we'd been to any of the clubs in town. We'd talked about
some of the DJs that we like, and what kind of music we listen to
before, so he knew we were into club culture, at least some. Hearing
that we had very limited experience dancing in Tunisia, he offered to
take us out with some of his friends. About a week later, I gave him
a call and said we were in. He made some calls and put together a
night out with his friends for Saturday.

The party started at five past midnight, after he closed the store,
changed into black slacks and slicked his hair. He and his friend
Karim picked us up and drove us out toward la Goulette to a small club
called Le Jasmin. It was a very small club, probably the smallest
I've ever been in. Imagine a club with Che Guevara faces stenciled on
the walls, a central counter running almost the length of a room three
times the size of a large living room, a built in bench running the
length of all the walls, some cubes for tables and chairs, and a small
bar counter at either end of the room. That was our club. Oh, yes,
and there was a tree growing up through the building, and through the
roof. We took particular notice of that, as we happened to be
standing under it when it started raining outside and we got
thoroughly wet.

Can you believe that in that small space they managed to pack hundreds
of people? At the beginning of the night (after midnight) I leaned
over to comment to Loren that in Canada this would never pass, for
fire-hazard reasons. Apparently in Tunisia that doesn't apply. There
was a live DJ spinning tunes of all types together. Arabic, retro,
techno, euro pop and hard house, all mixed to a seamless electronic
drum-beat. There were so many people it was dancing room only. There
was nowhere to sit down, and almost no way to move through the crowd.
The last time I've felt so packed in was at the Edmonton Rave
featuring Charlie Mayhem and DJ Irene.

Anise and Karim's friends joined us over the course of the evening.
The total group consisted of four men, and four girls. We danced in
our little space for four hours! And the club was a hoot! Very
different from dancing back home. For one, all the girls know how to
move, and I mean really move, with swinging hips and shoulders, and
undulating bellies. And for another, all the boys dance too, and
dance together, for in Arabic culture there is much more interaction
and contact between people of the same sex, but much less between
people of the opposite sex. I should mention also that this
particular club (and maybe all of them?) had a healthy percentage of
gays and lesbians, though Loren and I are convinced that many of our
friends weren't aware (which may have been for the better).

I would like to mention too, that the forward nature of Tunisian men
applies to night-clubs as well as to the street. They're better
dressed, but otherwise not so different. Our entourage of four men,
Loren included, spent the entire night keeping the boys off us girls
(who were a pretty bunch, if I do say so myself). The men are forward
to the point of actually following us right out of the club at leaving
time. I got into a car with Loren, Anise and Karim, but the three
other girls climbed into a car with only one guy from our party. They
were followed by a car of four boys who had been trying hard to pick
us up at the club. At one round-about the boys got out, presumably to
get phone numbers, and we stopped our car behind them where Anise and
Karim got out too. Loren jumped out (with some difficulty, for the
child proof doors) to even up the numbers (four for four). About five
police officers materialized out of nowhere, as they are wont to do
here in Tunisia, and the boys all shook hands, and thumped each other
on the backs before calmly disbursing. The poor pursuers departed
without a single number.

At around 5 AM we retired to a the house of a friend. There some
drank water (to rehydrate and sober up), some smoked shisha pipes with
sweet apple tobacco, some kept drinking, and we all chatted with each
other. At 5:40 the mosque sounded and all we laughed as those smoking
and drinking held off for the duration of the two minute call to
prayer ("le moindre des choses!"). Two, kept right on smoking, and we
were advised that they were allowed because they weren't Muslim. In
fact the group was very diverse. We had to Canadians, one Lebanese,
one French/Egyptian, and a bunch of Tunisians. And among them we had
one Christian, one Buddhist, one Atheist, one Tunisian Jew, and
several Muslims. Quite a crowd.

By 6:20 everyone was ready to go, and we were loaded into the car of
yet another friend who took us to the city's best Lablabi shop, which
was nothing more than a canteen in the side of a wall. Lablabi is a
salty soup made of boiled chick-peas, harissa (hot paste), day old
bread and egg. It's heavy, spicy, salty and loaded. It comes in a
big home-made pottery bowl and looks brown, lumpy, and sort of gluey
and glutinous (from the soggy bread) like stringy cheese. We were
served this in the car, and it turned out to be the perfect solution
for day-after-party syndrome. Though it tasted pretty good, Loren
could hardly stomach it. I told him better not to look at it.

Then we were taken home, where we crashed in bed at about 7 AM. We
only managed to sleep until 11 before a call woke us. Still not
recovered, we were brought very much awake and decided to get up

It was a wonderful party, and we really went all out. Did I mention
that we paid for absolutely nothing? Not cover, not transportation,
not one drink (and we got several more than we wanted), not lablabi
for breakfast. We were considered guests, and treated with Arabic
hospitality. They must have spent about 80 Dinars on us, but wouldn't
hear of letting us pay. Nothing expected from us, but to have a good
time. And that's exactly what we did!


At 12:34 a.m., Anonymous Victoria Brooks said...

Tiara, thank you! You have taking us there.
Victoria Brooks

At 2:08 p.m., Blogger meeee said...

in the capital,there is no way t have fun.the night clubs are small and dumb.the tow only cities in tunisia to have fun in,are Hammamet and maybe some day you come back tunisia,and get a real vacation.i live in Sousse and i am a commercial pilot,i work whith Tunisair.if some day thaught about it give me a call (00216)55465645


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